Orange Is The New Black Eye For Netflix

It never ceases to amaze/impress me the ways that our advancing technologies seem to give rise to new and unexpected challenges. A recent example would be the group of hackers holding Netflix ransom over the new series of the popular show Orange Is The New Black.

The group "TheDarkOverlord" approached Netflix demanding they cough up or they would release the show online ahead of the scheduled June 2017 release date. Netflix told them to take a hike, and in fact the group did release 10 episodes of the show already (a typical season consists of 13 episodes).
The group allegedly managed to get hold of the episode after gaining access to the systems of post-production studio Larson Studios in Hollywood.

KDE Neon - A Nice Surprise!

In the world of Linux Desktop Environments I usually gravitate towards the more "Windows-like" ones like Xfce and LXDE, or something like MATE in Linux Mint. Strangely enough, I have never been a fan of KDE - probably one of the more Window-y DEs.

Not until I tried KDE Neon, that is. This is pretty flippin' nice, I have to say. The concept behind Neon is, as they say on the website, is to give you "a stable Ubuntu long-term release as its core, packaging the hottest software fresh from the KDE Community ovens."


Classic Mac OS In A Browser

You've come a long way, baby! Both Apple and PC products have evolved remarkably in a relatively short time. As a Baby Boomer, I have gone from having no concept of a personal computer, to carrying around a smartphone in my pocket that would surely seem akin to magic to a NASA engineer from the time of the Apollo missions.

Remember the original Mac OS - the black and white mouse-driven graphical interface that made consumers sit up and take notice? No? Well, you can now experience it running in a browser - another magical sounding concept.
Now, the Internet Archive has some retro computing offerings from the other side of the great Mac/PC divide. Using a version of the PCE PC Emulator that has been ported to JavaScript, people interested in the Mac's early years can run System 6, System 7, and dozens of old apps, including MacWrite and Microsoft Basic using their browsers.
Ars Technica


Three Strikes, And All That

I just watched a recent YouTube video from a professional wedding photographer who was very enthusiastic (actually he was raving) about the Mavic Pro quadcopter. The Mavic Pro is a roughly $1,000 device - a foldable drone -  and probably could be considered a "prosumer" product. The photographer was trying to test if it would work well enough to compliment his other drone equipment.

Fair enough - now here is the weird part. He had ordered the product from New Egg, a well known computer/electronics vendor who has a very good return policy - which turned out to be important. The first Mavic had a camera problem - one half of the footage was quite noticeably out of focus. He returned it for a prompt replacement.  

The second device also had a (different) camera problem, in that either the camera mount or the stabilization circuitry had an issue and he was experiencing quite a bad "jello" effect. "Jello" is the bane of drone videography, and usually manifests as a distracting, wobbly/strobing effect on part or all of the video.

He had video samples of both of these conditions, and they were quite obvious in the clips he showed. The guy's name is not important, and I don't want to seem like I am calling him out personally in all this. He returned the second Mavic to New Egg and got a third, which is the one he was raving about.

However, during his praise he then revealed that this Mavic also had a problem; after a few minutes use, the camera would stop working, reboot itself and then start working again.

This is the part that floored me - the guy was still so enthusiastic about the Mavic as a product, yet he had just purchased 3 duds one after the other! I had not previously heard any concerns about the Mavic having quality issues. It is very popular and it's not a bargain basement device by any stretch - maybe he just ran into a bad batch? 

He was not real clear in the video if these were software or hardware issues, or a mixture. My shock was that he seemed completely unfazed by all this, and was still going to use it in his business in addition to he other equipment.

Mavic Pro, in folder position - image courtesy


The Last Jedi Trailer - A Couple Of Questions

The Last Jedi teaser trailer was set free at the end of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the original Star Wars movie. The teaser lives up to it's name, and features most of the main characters and a few tantalizing glimpses and sound bites. As is the nature of these kinds of releases, sometimes more questions are raised than are answered - and a couple of biggies occurred to me.

Please understand, even though I am a Star Wars fan, I have not read any of the novels or seen any of the animated shows that may expand the universe created by the movies. I may be making a fool of myself here by questioning things that true "nerds" already know or suspect. 

That said, two big things leaped off the screen at me (as an aside, I loved the initial shot, which appears at first to be a star field, and then turns out to be glistening rocks).

First was the ancient books - you see a small number of very old books in a patch of sunlight. The first thing that came to my mind, believe it or not, was the "Journal of the Whills". The original Star Wars movie title referenced the Whills at some point during the various re-writes and revisions. They were an ancient mysterious order, and are referenced here and there in the other Star Wars materials. 

The name came up recently in Rogue One, where one of the character was identified as a "Guardian of the Whills". So my thought was that these volumes may actually be part of the Journal of the Whills, in physical form. Is Luke Skywalker seeking them, or has he been studying them?

Which brings me to question 2 - what does Luke mean by his statement "Time for the Jedi to end"? It appears to be Luke saying that, but he is in shadow against the outside daylight. Is it the obvious idea that he will die, or has to die, and after that there will be no more Jedi? It looks like he is training Rey to be a Jedi, so must they both die? 

Or is he alluding to he and/or Rey becoming something beyond being a Jedi? Much was made in the previous movies about bringing balance to the Force, and that never seemed to work as expected. Is it possible Luke has found a third way, not just either light or dark Force?

Or do I just need to switch to decaf? Answers on a postcard please . . . . 

JoBlo has a nice trailer breakdown too (below), for those of you interested in such minutiae

VPN Use Is Up, Up, Up

Since the repeal of the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules, VPN use and traffic is rather predictably spiking, according to many VPN providers. VPNs are not the b-all and end-all of privacy though, and indeed the usual cretins have stepped in to provide shady VPN services that may actually sell on user data.

Also remember:
ISPs still track your location data and DNS records, even if you're using a VPN. Similarly, a VPN doesn't stop a company from using on-device snoopware to track you (remember Carrier IQ?). Neither will it stop ISPs from charging you a premium for privacy (something both AT&T and Comcast have already experimented with). Nor will a VPN stop a company from using your credit score to provide worse customer service (something CableONE has crowed about).
DSL Reports

Star Wars Episode IX Likely To Feature Some Carrie Fisher - Updated

Carrie Fisher's untimely passing late last year left not only a lot of shocked fans and friends, but a sizeable problem for the folks making the new Star Wars movies. While Ms. Fisher had already completed filming for her (reportedly more substantial) part in this year's Episode VIII, it's not known how much she might have been expected to appear in the follow-up Episode IX.

It's now being reported that Carrie Fisher/General Leia will not be "written out" or recast, and she will appear in some fashion in Episode IX. It is not expected to be via a CGI recreation, such as that seen in Rogue One - where a long-deceased Peter Cushing apparently returned to reprise his role as villainous Governor (later Grand Moff) Tarkin.

The logical inference would be of some brief scenes perhaps cobbled together from whatever footage is available from Ms. Fisher's previous work, somehow worked into the storyline of the yet-to-be-filmed movie. It would seem strange, I think, to recast one of the original trilogy's recurring human characters at this stage, and perhaps strike many as a bit too ghoulish to try the CGI approach so relatively soon after her passing.

*update* Kathleen Kennedy (President of LucasFilm) just stated on Good Morning America that Carrie/Leia will not appear in Episode 9

Color Video Camera With Effective ISO Rating of 5,000,000

Hey, how about a video camera that can shoot in the dark and actually produce quality color images - non of that grainy green or black & white stuff? There is such a beast, and it honestly looks incredible.

The X27 low light camera system produces very good color images in moonlight, starlight, and so on. The video below was reportedly shot at midnight at a beach.

This kind of thing has a great fascination for me, as my wife and I used to be quite "into" 35mm photography back in the day, when "pushing" black & white film to an effective ISO rating of 1600 or (gasp) 3200, was considered one step away from darkest alchemy. Now we have a video camera working at around 5,000,000 ISO.


Ubuntu Unity Desktop To Take A Powder

Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth just dropped a bit of a bombshell by announcing that Ubuntu 18.04 (the next LTS release) would arrive without Unity as the default desktop environment; rather it will come with Gnome instead.

Ubuntu invested a lot of time and effort into Unity, their "convergence" product,  but I don't believe it ever really "caught on", certainly not to the degree that Mr Shuttleworth envisioned. When push comes to shove market forces even hold sway in the Linux desktop world, and Ubuntu is pulling back support for Unity as their main desktop 
We are wrapping up an excellent quarter and an excellent year for the company, with performance in many teams and products that we can be proud of. As we head into the new fiscal year, it’s appropriate to reassess each of our initiatives. I’m writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell. We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 
Personally, I never really "got" the Unity desktop; I tried it  a couple of times rather early on, and it was not a good fit for me for whatever reason - so I can't honestly say it affects me one way or the other. I feel bad for those who embraced it, and I suppose it will linger for a bit longer since 16.04 LTS will presumably continue to support it for the next few years.