Antisocial Media

People can be jerks, particularly online where they feel more anonymous (I guess). People with social and/or mental issues may stray far beyond being a jerk if the muse moves them. The recent ghastly shooting of a local news crew by a "disgruntled" former employee is a sickening example. The perpetrator had arranged to record his act and post it online; which he did, and even though the videos were quickly pulled, of course they were already "out" at that point.

By the way, we need to come up with a better word than "disgruntled" - to me that means you might let the air out of your former boss' tires, not start shooting people.
As Farhad Manjoo writes, “The horror was the dawning realization, as the video spread across the networks, that the killer had anticipated the moves — that he had been counting on the mechanics of these services and on our inability to resist passing on what he had posted.”
NYTimes Blog


Self-Drive Cars - Can Cops Put On The Brakes?

Once you start thinking the self-drive car concept through, there are quite a few thorny questions that come up such as the car's decision making in a life-or-death situation, and whether the police can and should be able to stop such a vehicle remotely. The latter is discussed in this Future Tense article.
“One can readily imagine abuses that might occur if, for example, capabilities to control automated vehicles and the disclosure of detailed personal information about their occupants were not tightly controlled and secured.”
Future Tense


Silly Samsung Smart Fridge Can Expose Your Gmail Password

Ah, the Internet Of Things (IoT) - the epitome of "Let's do it because we can!". Once again we see an example of a poorly thought out security approach that leaves Joe user hanging it out over the ragged edge. This time, it's a Samsung Smart Fridge - and while it may be a good fridge...

"While SSL is in place, the fridge fails to validate the certificate. Hence, hackers who manage to access the network that the fridge is on (perhaps through a de-authentication and fake Wi-Fi access point attack) can Man-In-The-Middle the fridge calendar client and steal Google login credentials from their neighbours, for example."
"Egregiously dumb fridge" does not have the same ring, does it?



Quick Look At Zorin OS 10

Zorin OS 10 was released August 1st 2015, and is the latest in a long line of very nice, Ubuntu-based Linux distributions with a definite nod toward the ex-Windows user. I jump around operating systems quite a bit, and had been happily using Elementary OS for several months prior to this change.

The various default themes available (click to enlarge)

Bruce Schneier Outlines The Cyber-Arms Race At LinuxCon

Bruce Schneier is well known as a writer, security maven and cryptographer. At this year's LinuxCon [slideshow] he confirmed he believes we now are in the midst of a legitimate cyber-arms race.
Scheier said, believe it or not, that "the first destructive attack by a nation against the US was against a movie company." The trigger may have been merely Sony's 'The Interview' movie, but the goal appears to have been to cause "destruction and coercion" to a major Western country. Sony was also targeted Schneier suspects because, compared to other companies, its security was so weak.


Selfies And Head Lice

"Selfies and Head Lice" was not a blog post I expected to make today, but apparently there is a train of thought where all that selfie posing is facilitating the spread of head lice. While it sounds a bit dubious, there is an increase in head lice infestations, and the little buggers don't jump or fly - they would need to crawl from head to head. So putting many noggins together in order to take a bunch of "group" selfies kinda sorta makes sense....


Childhood's End Miniseries On SyFy - Longer Trailer

I noted previously on this blog that the SyFy cable channel will bring us a 6-hour miniseries adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's trippy story "Childhood's End" this December. After having now watched the longer trailer, my same mixed feelings of anticipation and trepidation remain.

The EM Drive: Real Deal Or Square Wheel? *updated*

*update* NASA concluded some more testing that seems to show that this actually does produce thrust.

The EM drive may be something wonderful - or it may be nothing at all. You would think in this day and age, we would be able to determine if a propulsion system works or not.

In this case - as I understand it - it does seem to work; it does produce a measurable "effect" under testing. But few seem to fully understand how it works or the true nature or power of the "effect" produced.

If it does actually do what some think it may - well then, welcome to the future.

The best research points to the EM drive generating 30kN of thrust for each kilowatt of power dumped into the frustum. Put more simply, one kilowatt (the power to light ten 100 W light bulbs, or run a microwave oven) could lift a 3000 kg object and hover a few feet off the ground.

Great overview here, at HackADay 


Don't Post Facebook Pics Of Police Cars In Spain

If you post a photo of an illegally parked police car in Spain, you can be promptly fined for your impertinence. Huh?
The Citizens Security Law, popularly known as the gagging law and which came into force on 1 July, prohibits “the unauthorised use of images of police officers that might jeopardise their or their family’s safety or that of protected facilities or police operations”.
Amnesty International condemned the law, saying that photographing police was vital in cases when excessive force had been used. Fines under this section of the law range from €600 to €30,000.

The Guardian

Earth Overshoot Day Already?

As I understand it, the Earth Overshot Day concept is a bit like Tax Freedom Day. Tax Freedom Day is the first day of the year where a nation has earned enough income to actually pay off it's tax debt - April 24th this year for the US.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year by which humankind has used up 100% of the planets consumables, and thereafter we are whittling away at finite resources. A later date would be better in this case, and this year the overshoot occurred on August 13th.
It means humanity is on course to consume the equivalent of 1.6 Earths this year and, if the current course is maintained, we will be using the resources of two Earths per year by 2030.
I have no way to know how accurate an this estimate like this may be, but it's definitely food for thought.

The Independent 


Oh Shut Up, Windows 10 !

If Windows 10 is told to stop talking to Microsoft servers, apparently it just murmurs in the background instead. The initial privacy concerns over the amount and kind of data being shared by Windows 10 with the Microsoft mothership were somewhat mollified in that you can turn a lot of the default chit-chat off. Or can you? ArsTechnica has some doubts...
Other traffic looks a little more troublesome. Windows 10 will periodically send data to a Microsoft server named This server seems to be used for OneDrive and some other Microsoft services. Windows 10 seems to transmit information to the server even when OneDrive is disabled and logins are using a local account that isn't connected to a Microsoft Account.



Google Now Part Of The Alphabet Soup

In a rather major shake up, Google will become a wholly owned subsidiary of a new company, Alphabet. As someone who does not delve much into corporate machinations, I certainly did not see this one coming.

According to Google co-founder Larry Page:
What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related.


Battlestation Computer Rigs

There was a time when the boring beige box that was your computer system was consigned to beside (or under) the desk in a spare room, but if you have a tricked out system then why not - as the Max Bialystock character says in The Producers - "Flaunt it, baby - flaunt it!" 

These examples are just that, multi-display extravaganzas from folk who either really loved their computers, or just really love showing them off. I guess we are calling these "Battlestation" rigs now...

Oddly, the one I like is the naked computer components mounted on a board on the wall, complete with light pipes marking out the individual hard drives, system board, etc. Not something I would ever do (my wife would be too tempted to turn the vacuum cleaner on it), but it surely makes a statement.


4K Display For VR Devices...And Eventually Smartphones

A pixel density of 734 pixels per inch is pretty impressive, and Chinese manufacturer Everdisplay has made such a display in a 6-inch format said to be slated for use in VR devices. A display like that would look might sweet on a smartphone too - and Sharp is working on a 5.5 inch 3840x2160 display also. 
Although a PPI density of 734 is definitely high-definition by any modern standard, bear in mind that this doesn't break any records as far as prototype displays go. Earlier this year, Sharp announced a 5.5-inch IGZO display with a 4K resolution and a PPI of 806. Furthermore, Samsung recently announced plans to manufacture a display with a mind-boggling 11K resolution, one that would feature the unthinkable PPI of 2250.

You Might Be A Geek If...

Using the Jeff Foxworthy convention, here are some tell-tale signs:

You might be a geek if...

... you use SPF 120 anytime you venture outside

... you point out bugs and design flaws in the POS system to the cashier

... your computer rig costs more than your car (and runs way better)

... you know more IP addresses than phone numbers

... you know there are 10 types of people in the world; geeks and everyone else

... you are pretty fluent in Klingon

... you are a card-carrying member of the EFF

... you think caffeine is one of the food groups

... your keyboard setting is DVORAK, but you have a QWERTY keyboard

... you regularly find loose thumb drives in the dryer know which show this comes from


Android Stagefright May Lead To Better Updates

The Stagefright vulnerability is starting to look like it *may* be the impetus needed to start getting more regular, if not exactly timely updates for Android devices. Because of the way manufacturers and carriers customize Android for their products, it can take more time that one might thing to get updates out - when the updates are available at all. Not exactly Android's best aspect...
The likes of LG may well start to produce security updates 12 times a year, but how long will it be before they filter down to customers? Carriers will want to run their own tests and checks on updates that are produced, and with the problem of Android market fragmentation, this is something that could take some time. Some handset producers have the luxury of people able to push updates directly to handsets without the need to involve a middleman, but this is certainly not the norm.


The 99% Successful SSD Upgrade

I just upgraded our Windows 7 home computer with an SSD drive; it was not 100% successful, but it does work and it is quite a bit faster. I wanted to make it a quick process, so I opted to clone the existing boot drive to the SSD rather that do a fresh load of Windows 7 (or even Windows 10). I have done a couple of SSD upgrades/install previously with no issues.