Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Short Takes

Charlotte police chief says the video of the shooting does not offer definitive evidence that the victim was holding a gun.

Police officer in Tulsa charged with first degree manslaughter in shooting of unarmed man.

Yahoo reports a vast e-mail breach by a “state-sponsored” hack dating to 2014.

President Obama honored some of the country’s top artists and filmmakers, including Mel Brooks.

The Tigers took Game 1 9-2 and Game 2 4-2 of the double header from Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Stamp of Approval

As Bryan notes, while some people are upset that the U.S. Treasury is replacing one of America’s worst presidents on the $20 bill with a woman worthy of being honored, Canada is boldly going where no postcard has gone before.

When Star Trek first aired on TV decades ago, the crew members of the Enterprise were in the midst of a five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Lately, however, its well-known characters have been going to a place where many people have gone before — onto stamps being pasted on envelopes mailed by Canadians.

Canada Post has been rolling out a series of Star Trek-themed stamps, one at a time, in honour of the iconic TV show’s 50th anniversary.

I think they’re trying to make up for sending us Justin Bieber and Ted Cruz.  It’s a start.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Short Takes

EgyptAir hijacking ends peacefully.

President Obama announced new proposals to fight the opioid addiction epidemic.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he will not defend the state’s new LGBTQ discrimination law.  (Cooper is the current governor’s opponent in this year’s election.)

The Supreme Court wants to hear more on the Obamacare contraception case.

The Justice Department vs. Apple case is officially over.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Phone Hack

Via the New York Times:

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the tech company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.

The decision to drop the case — which involved demanding Apple’s help to open an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people — ends a legal standoff between the government and the world’s most valuable public company. The case had become increasingly contentious as Apple refused to help the authorities, inciting a debate about whether privacy or security was more important.

It’s spring break.  They probably found some 12-year-old kid with nothing better to do to hack it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Reading

Weimar America — Eric Weitz at Moyers and Company says it’s not the candidate but the electorate that brings about the dictators.

All around the Web, in print, and on radio comes the claim that America has entered its “Weimar” phase. Economic collapse, political paralysis, rampant homosexuality, a desperate, disoriented populace open to the ravings of a demagogue – that is the portrait we get of Germany between the end of World War I in 1918 and the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. That is where America is supposedly situated in 2016.

Yes, Weimar Germany ended badly, horribly so. But the America of today bears little similarity to Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. America is a society ripped through by gaping inequalities, but it is hardly in a state of economic collapse. It still boasts the world’s largest economy and it has recovered from the Great Recession far better than many others in the Western world. America is still a powerful country internationally, one that deploys its military at will, something that Germany, suffering under the strictures of the Versailles Peace Treaty, could never attempt. Yes, there’s political paralysis in Washington, yet it barely rises to the level of Weimar Germany, where over 20 parties were represented in the Reichstag and the country was governed by a presidential dictatorship for the three years prior to the Nazi takeover.

Moreover, commentators right and left, focused only on the negatives and the disasters that ensued – the Third Reich, World War II, and the Holocaust — leave out so much about the great democratic experiment that was the Weimar Republic. Germans had greater political freedoms than ever before. A vast program of public housing moved hundreds of thousands out of dank tenements into modern, light-filled apartments. Public health clinics sprang up all around the country, and many of them offered sexual counseling to a population that physicians claimed lacked fundamental knowledge about reproduction and the pleasures of the body and lived in sexual misery. Literature, philosophy, music theater and film all flourished, much of it new, edgy and experimental. Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time – these and much more are great markers of 20th century Western culture that we still read, view and hear with pleasure and profit.

The lessons to be learned from Weimar Germany are not the ones we hear and read about today. Weimar Germany did not collapse under the weight of its various crises. It was actively destroyed by a conservative elite – noble landowners, high-level state officials, businessmen, army officers – that chose to ally with the Nazi Party. As we watch the Republican establishment’s ineffectual flailings to stop Donald Trump, it’s worth remembering that Weimar Germany’s old-style conservatives never really liked Hitler and the Nazis either. To them, the Nazis were too loud, uncouth, low class. But they admired Hitler’s nationalism, his promise to revive Germany’s great power status, his opposition to democracy, and his anti-communism. And they were either indifferent to or actively supported the Nazis’ anti-Semitism.

The conservative elite got much more than they had bargained for with their willingness to turn political power over to the Nazis. Some would live to regret their choice, many not until American and British bombs rained down on Hamburg, Berlin and other cities and the Red Army approached the gates.

But the conservatives had made Hitler and the Nazis salonfähig, as one says in German. Colloquially in English, that means “acceptable in polite society.” That is the real lesson from Weimar Germany and the real danger – when traditional or moderate conservatives throw in their lot with radical conservatives. The moderates may not like the radicals, may not embrace them, but when other alternatives have failed, they bring the radicals into the fold, claim that power will inevitably moderate their more wild side, reassure the population that the radicals are really not that bad after all.

That is where we are today with Donald Trump. Trump is not a fascist or a neo-Nazi, as some have claimed, though he has certainly made countless racist and misogynist comments. He has also proclaimed a blatant disregard for laws, treaties and constitutional provisions in an America that is supposed to be governed by the rule of law. While some Republicans are back pedaling and trying to block a Trump nomination, we are still being treated to the spectacle of many Republican candidates and office holders asserting that they will support him if he is chosen by the party. These are the people who are making Trump salonfähig.

The real issue is not whether Trump is a modern-day Hitler or Mussolini. The problem lies deeper: with the social and political mores that have made possible his crude nativism and contempt for social progress. Democrats and Republicans alike have been marveling at his success as if it were a bolt out of the blue. Yet for years now Republicans have been bowing before the idol of radical conservatism. They have cowered before the tea party and have stashed the party coffers with immense contributions from the Koch brothers’ operation. The people who are now struggling to stop Trump are the same ones who made his views salonfähig.

In America today, the major threats do not come from abroad. They lie within, from those who claim to believe in democracy yet undermine its substance by deploying great wealth in the political process and devaluing the diversity of American society. And the danger comes especially from those who perhaps should know better, but make anti-democratic, radical conservatives salonfähig. That is the real lesson to be taken from Weimar Germany.

The Password is “Money” — David Murphy at PC Magazine on how cheaply some folks will sell out their company.

“Everybody has a price,” as the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Ted DiBiase used to boast. While it’s true that there are plenty of people out there who are willing to keep their company’s secrets private no matter the cost, many would be happy to turn over everything from private information to passwords for a little (or a lot of) cash.

According to new research from SailPoint, around 20 percent of respondents to a recent survey indicated they would sell their passwords to a third party if paid to do so. The survey went out to 1,000 office workers at companies with 1,000 or more employees (located in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.). Based on the responses, it doesn’t appear as if it would take very much money to encourage quite a few employees to cough up their credentials.

“In last year’s survey, we were astonished to see that not only were respondents willing to sell their passwords to a third party (1 in 7), but they were willing to do it for as little as $150,” reads SailPoint’s 2016 Market Pulse Survey. “Twenty percent shared passwords with their co-workers, and a little more than half (56 percent) shared passwords among applications. This year, even among a larger concern for their personal information’s security, the percentage of those willing to risk corporate data either through apathy, negligence, or financial gain only increased.

“This year, we found that 1 in 5 respondents would sell their passwords to a third-party organization and a staggering 44 percent of them would do it for less than $1,000. Even more concerning? Some would sell their corporate credentials for less than $100.”

Breaking down the figures by geography, more workers in the United States (27 percent) indicated they would be willing to sell their passwords if asked than any other measured region. Only 12 percent of respondents in the Netherlands and Australia would do the same.

In general, the number of office workers who would be willing to sell their passwords is up 42 percent from the previous year’s survey. In the U.S., 40 percent of those who said they would sell their passwords would do so for less than $1,000. Office workers in the United Kingdom were most willing to sell their passwords for less money (52 percent), and those in the Netherlands were the least likely (33 percent).

“Considering the average organization size for the corporations from which our respondents are employed is about 50,000, that means it’s possible that 10,000 users at any of those enterprises would sell their password, and 4,400 sell theirs for less than $1,000. [That’s] 32,500 share passwords among applications and nearly 17,000 share passwords with their co-workers,” reads SailPoint’s report.

That said, you might not get very much for your credentials anyway (depending on where you work and what you have access to). Even if there’s some way that your passwords could allow a third party to access a bunch of credit card data, for example, that’s not going to make you a millionaire. You’re better off coughing up your own bank account number.

Test Anxiety — John Flowers at The New Yorker gets sample questions from the final at Trump University.

Below you will find three examples of questions from previous final exams at Trump University. Use these sample questions and the answer key provided to prepare for next week’s big test.

1. Two plus two equals what?

(a) Maybe four.
(b) Could be four. Could be. Lotta people saying it’s five.
(c) I’m not saying it’s five; I’m saying it could be—could be five. You see these establishment hacks, losers, like Mitt Romney? Real crank. They hate me. They take answers like “could be” and say, “Oh, he says two plus two equals five.” I never said that. I never—I said “could be.” Could be six. We don’t know.
(d) All of the above.
(e) None of the above.
(f) D and E.

2. Describe a major theme of “The Old Man and the Sea.”

(a) Well, the theme is big. That I can assure you. Definitely no problem in the theme department. Quite big. Quite.
(b) I know what you want me to say here. You want me to say “yuge.” Well, I’m not. I’m not gonna say that.
(c) Should I say it? . . . No. I’m not gonna say it. But it is.
(d) Now—and I don’t even wanna bring it up—but you got a lot of people. I’m not going to mention names. O.K., Marco. You got Little Marco, who has a tiny theme. No, it’s true. Very small. Probably why he’s outta the race. Seriously, find me one person who says there was a big theme behind that campaign. But anyway, here’s Little Marco, saying I’m the one with the small theme. Can you believe that? Says I’m like Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea.” Says I sometimes lose my harpoon—you know, prematurely—when I try to reel in the big fish. Totally not true.
(e) In fact, reminds me of the time I tried to get a date with Brooke Shields. Remember Brooke Shields? Gorgeous. Not like my wife. Gorgeous, though. I asked her out. She said no. Career went downhill after that. Left me like Santiago at the end of the book, hauling this gigantic mast home with nothing to show for my troubles.
(f) Seriously, “The Old Man and the Sea”? Please. Santiago’s not a winner. Here’s what you need to read: “The Art of the Deal.” Best book since the Bible. Probably better. People say that. I don’t. People do. Bible was, like, God with sixty ghostwriters. “The Art of the Deal” was just me, dictating to Tony Schwartz. Great guy. Takes dictation better than Moses.

3. H2O is the chemical symbol for what compound?

(a) What the hell’s “huh-twenty”?
(b) No, that’s what it says, “huh-twenty.” Or maybe the “H” is silent. I dunno.
(c) I didn’t say “huh-twenty.” You said “huh-twenty.” You asked me what “huh-twenty” was. You see, this is what the media does. They claim, “You said ‘huh-twenty!’ ” And I’m like, “I said? No you said ‘huh-twenty.’ I just repeated what you said.”
(d) That’s all they do, ask these totally bogus questions, when what they should be asking about is Hillary’s e-mails. That’s what this question should be about. Because what she did—wow. I mean, that’s why she’s hugging Obama every chance she gets.
(e) You know who else hugs Obama? Chris Christie.
(f) But we love Chris, don’t we? We love Chris.

Answer key:

1. I like A. I like B, too. D doesn’t do much for me, but E and F are real winners.

2. I’m gonna have to look into A and B. C is very compelling. Very. I hear good things about D through F. But I don’t wanna say anything yet.

3. I don’t know why people are saying there were three questions. There weren’t. I mean, do you have video? Show me the video where there were three questions. You can’t, because there is no video. People come here. They try to make trouble, saying we started a question three. We did not. And lemme tell ya, we’re gonna fight back. I’m not saying we’ll sue, but we could. Throw a few punches, ya know. Because this test prep is a great test prep. You thought so, too: you signed the agreement saying that you thought this was the greatest test prep of all time and that you wanted to be sued if video surfaced of you saying otherwise.

Congratulations, this was actually the final. You’ve passed. Now give me $35,000.

Doonesbury — Rising waters in Denial River.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hunting Bugs For Fun and Profit

The New York Times has a good piece on why hackers are more interested in helping the FBI crack the iPhone owned by the San Bernardino shooter than they are in standing up for Apple.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla and many other tech companies all pay outside hackers who turn over bugs in their products and systems. Uber began a new bug bounty program on Tuesday. Google has paid outside hackers more than $6 million since it announced a bug bounty program in 2010, and the company last week doubled its top reward to $100,000 for anyone who can break into its Chromebook.

Apple, which has had relatively strong security over the years, has been open about how security is a never-ending cat-and-mouse game and how it is unwilling to engage in a financial arms race to pay for code exploits.

The company has yet to give hackers anything more than a gold star. When hackers do turn over serious flaws in its products, they may see their name listed on the company’s website — but that is it. That is a far cry from what hackers can expect if they sell an Apple flaw on the thriving underground market where a growing number of companies and government agencies are willing to pay hackers handsomely.

Short answer: money doesn’t just talk, it hacks.

HT to FC.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Open A New Window…

With CLW’s help I installed Windows 10 over the weekend. It took an hour to download and about the same to install, but it went fine and all systems, including my printer and aged database program, are functioning within normal parameters. “Cortana,” the “helpful” assistant (augh, shades of Clippie) has been told to go away. But didn’t anyone at Microsoft see that replacing the little hourglass icon with a trail of dots swirling clockwise suggests something going down the toilet?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Going To 10

Today Microsoft releases their newest operating system, Windows 10.  Users of their current systems, 7 and 8, have been offered free upgrades, and since I’m on 7, I signed up.  Via CBC, HT Bryan:

Windows 10 is coming to PCs and tablets first, but it’s also designed to run phones, game consoles and even holographic headsets. It has new features, a streamlined Web browser called Edge and a desktop version of Cortana, the online assistant that is Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Apple’s Siri.

Still, the company insists Windows 10 will seem familiar to users of Windows 7, the six-year-old operating system still running on most PCs. Microsoft and PC makers want to erase the memory of the last big update, 2012’s Windows 8, which alienated many with its jarring, unwieldy design.

Microsoft skipped the name Windows 9, as if to distance itself further from the last release. While many analysts believe Windows 8 made sagging PC sales even worse, it’s unclear if Windows 10 will spur the industry back to growth.

Microsoft operating systems are like Star Trek movies: every other one is bad (remember Vista?) so presumably 10 will be an improvement.  I will let you know after the upgrade happens here, which could be anytime between now and the Rapture.

Here’s a trip down Memory Lane for Microsoft users over the last 30 years.  Tada.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nerdvana

It is somehow reassuring that all is not lost when you have a justice of the Supreme Court quote a comic book when rendering an opinion on the complexities of patent law.

”The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).”

It will be the acme of nerdity when Antonin Scalia renders an opinion in his native language, Klingon. Qapla’!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Short Takes

NATO troops are moving through Poland.

The trail of the New York prison escapees has gone cold.

AT&T faces $100 million fine over “unlimited” data plans.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Bill soak already-drenched Texas.

Kansas Gov. Brownback dodges ethics inquiry bullet.

More top-level changes at Microsoft.

The Tigers lost 8-4 in extra innings to the Reds.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Reading

Think of the Children — In the New York Times, Gabriela Herman talks to sons and daughters of gay and lesiban couples to see what marriage equality means to them.

My mom is gay. But it took me a long time to say those words out loud.

She came out nearly 20 years ago when I was in high school. My parents soon separated, and eventually, she married her longtime partner in one of Massachusetts’ first legal unions. It was a raw and difficult time. I hardly spoke to her for a year while I studied abroad. It felt like a fact that needed to be hidden, especially among my prepschool classmates. The topic was taboo even within our otherwise tight-knit family.

Five years ago, at age 29, I embarked on a project to meet, photograph and interview people with a similar story. I had never encountered anyone else raised by a gay parent.

My sister directed me to Colage, an organization that supports people with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents. Danielle Silber, who has six parents and who had become an organizer for the group, invited me to her East Village apartment one night. Her living room floor was filled with young people each telling their own family’s “coming out” story. Since that night, I’ve documented the stories of dozens of children and met many more. Each portrait and interview has become, in an unexpected way, my own therapy session.

The Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling soon that could make same-sex marriage legal in every state. In the past, when confronting this subject, the justices have pondered the impact on children. In 2013, during oral arguments on same-sex marriage in California, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wondered about the “some 40,000 children in California” who live with same-sex parents.” The justice asked: “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

The lawyer defending the ban replied, “On that specific question, Your Honor, there simply is no data.”

The studies may be sparse, but the stories are plentiful.

In my interviews, I met Ilana, whose mom unintentionally came out to everyone at her daughter’s Sweet 16 party. And Zach, who found himself compelled to defend his two moms in front of an Iowa House committee. And Kerry, who was raised as an evangelical Christian and who felt she needed to “save” her mom.

As we talked, we recalled having to juggle silence and isolation. Needing to defend our families on the playground, at church and during holiday gatherings. Some aspect of each story resonated with my experience and helped chip away at my own sense of solitude.

We — the children of gay and lesbian parents — are not hypotheticals. While my experience was difficult, I am hopeful that won’t be the case for the next generation. This inequality will fade, and my future children will wonder what the fuss was about.

Hillary Clinton Goes Populist, Almost — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Ms. Clinton’s appeal to the people at her launch rally yesterday.

If there was ever any doubt that Hillary Clinton was going to run a populist Presidential campaign, she dispelled it on Saturday with her speech on Roosevelt Island. Seeking to move beyond the controversies surrounding her family’s charitable foundation and her deleted e-mails, she spoke about the great disjuncture in the modern U.S. economy, and portrayed herself as an indefatigable battler for ordinary Americans.

The best part of the speech came toward the end, when Clinton said, “Well, I may not be the youngest candidate in this race. But I will be the youngest woman President in the history of the United States!” According to her staff, it was a line she picked up from someone at a campaign event in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago, and it brought loud cheers from her supporters, some of whom had traveled from as far as California to attend the rally.

But the guts of the address, delivered from a H-shaped stage erected in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which opened in 2012, came earlier. “You see corporations making record profits, with C.E.O.s making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged,” Clinton said. “While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top twenty-five hedge-fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined. And often paying a lower tax rate. So, you have to wonder, ‘When does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead? When?’ ”

Clinton went on, “Prosperity can’t be just for C.E.O.s and hedge-fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations. Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain, too. You brought our country back. Now it’s time—your time—to secure the gains and move ahead.”

Had someone on Clinton’s staff been reading the speeches of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and purloining bits of them? Not necessarily. The line about twenty-five hedge-fund managers making more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country was actually delivered by President Obama a few weeks ago. But, in placing C.E.O.s and hedge-fund managers center stage, and comparing their outsized remuneration and avarice to the tribulations of ordinary working people, Clinton was acknowledging not just the economic realities of modern America but the fact that the center of gravity in her party has shifted.

“I’m running to make our economy work for you and for every American,” she said, singling out “factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day … nurses who work the night shift … truckers who drive for hours … small-business owners who took a risk. For everyone who’s ever been knocked down but refused to be knocked out.”

In promising, prior to Saturday’s speech, to end mass incarceration, expand voting rights, and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, Clinton had already shifted to the left on issues that are major concerns to key elements of the modern Democratic coalition. Until now, though, she hadn’t said very much about the issues of wage stagnation, inequality, and corporate piggery, which progressives like Sanders, Warren, and Mayor Bill de Blasio (a conspicuous absentee from Saturday’s rally) have seized upon. Rhetorically, at least, Clinton answered calls for her to make clear where she stood on these issues: the middle of an article by Robert Reich or Joseph Stiglitz, or so it seemed.

“Our country’s challenges didn’t begin with the Great Recession, and they won’t end with the recovery,” she said, continuing,

Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports, but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans. The financial industry and many multinational corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focussing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value—too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation. Our political system is so paralyzed by gridlock and dysfunction that most Americans have lost confidence that anything can actually get done. And they’ve lost trust in the ability of both government and big business to change course.

There remains, of course, the question of what Clinton intends to do about these evils. She said that she would encourage companies to invest for the long term, change the tax code so that it “rewards hard work and investments here at home, not quick trades or stashing profits overseas,” and “give new incentives to companies that give their employees a fair share of the profits their hard work earns.” All of these may be worthwhile policies, but it’s hard to see them having much impact on the great divide she had just identified.

Open Hailing Frequency — Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic reports that the internet in space is like dial-up.

Outer space has its perks. But super-speedy Internet is, so far, not one of them.Connection speeds from the International Space Station are “worse than what dial-up was like,” the astronaut Scott Kelly said on Twitter. (His colleague, Reid Wiseman, agrees: “We have a very slow internet connection, but reliable email,” he said back in February.)

Internet connectivity in space is structured around a network of tracking and data relay satellites—the same fleet of communications satellites that NASA engineers on the ground use to communicate with astronauts on the International Space Station. And it’s not like there’s any shortage of technology aboard. “They have laptop computers, including one in their personal sleeping quarters, which they can use for limited web access—email, tweeting, and news,” David Steitz, a spokesman for NASA, told me. “They also have tablets onboard they can use for various operational tasks, but also video conferences with family and friends on the ground.”

Astronauts first got Internet access five years ago, a move that NASA said would help improve their quality of life and help them feel less isolated in space.

What makes the connection so slow compared with broadband Internet speed on the ground? The easiest way to understand it is to consider the distance that data has to travel. When an astronaut clicks a link on a website in space, that request first travels 22,000 miles away from Earth, to a network of geosynchronous satellites far beyond the relatively close station. The satellites then send the signal down to a receiver on the ground below, which processes the request before returning the response along the same path.

Another way to think about the Internet connection from space is as “remote access to the Internet via a ground computer,” as NASA once explained. Or, as one Redditor put it in a discussion of the Internet connection: “The ping is quite high because of the satellite transmission to earth, but the bandwidth isn’t too terrible.” So the capacity for data transmission is robust, but the time it takes to transmit is—by an Earthling’s standards—pretty slow.

To get online, astronauts are plugging into the same channel that’s used for all kinds of commands to the International Space Station. “It’s the satellite constellation that we use for all of our spacecraft operations,” said Dan Huot, a spokesman for NASA. “It’s used for a number of things—not only their Internet access but any telemetry, basically any data from spacecraft systems going up to the station or coming down.”

So when the crew on the International Space Station wants to tweak the thermostat or boost its altitude, all of that work is done by an engineer on the ground. “We use our uplink through these satellites to send those commands,” Huot said, “and using the same channels, basically, we’ve enabled them with Internet access.”

A temperature change is a straightforward enough command that it’s basically “instantaneous,” Huot says. And while Internet speeds may be slower than that, they’re not exactly terrible. “They have decent speeds,” he said. “We have the capability to send up and down large-format video files. We’re sending gigs and gigs and gigs of video every single day just from live downlinks of the crews themselves. […] We have bandwidth to send that down to the ground without overloading the system.”

“In their off-duty time, they do have the capability to watch live television shows, and live sports,” Huot said. Astronauts even watch movies in space, though they aren’t relying on Netflix to do so. “The astronauts can pick, before they fly, anything they want to watch up there,” he said. “They actually have a projector and a screen they can use to watch movies.” (He declined to share which films are on the current rotation, but astronauts said they watchedGravityand Star Wars from space in recent months.) Livestream video is possible on the International Space Station—of course, there are limitations other than connection times. “It’s still basically a work network,” Huot said. “So it’s not totally unfiltered access to the Internet.”

Either way, Internet connectivity is likely to improve for astronauts as NASA makes the switch to laser-based systems. Already, engineers have transmitted a high-definition video from the International Space Station to the ground on a laser beam. It’s a “much faster” way to transmit data, NASA said in a demonstration, and one that hints at the “future of communications to and from space.”

Doonesbury — Secede already.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Short Takes

Search continues for last of the the suspects in Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were hacked.

Attacks against ISIS continue.

Cuba released 53 political prisoners as promised as part of the thaw in U.S. relations.

South Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage is struck down, but the order is immediately stayed.

Paul Ryan isn’t running for president.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Who Goes There?

AOL got hacked yesterday.  Change your passwords if you use it.

AOL Inc on Monday urged its tens of millions of email account holders to change their passwords and security questions after a cyber attack compromised about 2 percent of its accounts. The company said it was working with federal authorities to investigate the attack, in which hackers obtained email addresses, postal addresses, encrypted passwords and answers to security questions used to reset passwords. It said there was no indication that the encryption on that data had been broken. A company spokesman declined to say how many email accounts are registered on its system.

Meanwhile, the feds are warning against using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer until a security flaw can be repaired.

The U.S. and UK governments on Monday advised computer users to consider using alternatives to Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer browser until the company fixes a security flaw that hackers used to launch attacks. The Internet Explorer bug, disclosed over the weekend, is the first high-profile computer threat to emerge since Microsoft stopped providing security updates for Windows XP earlier this month. That means PCs running the 13-year-old operating system will remain unprotected, even after Microsoft releases updates to defend against it.The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team said in an advisory released on Monday that the vulnerability in versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer could lead to “the complete compromise” of an affected system.

I’m really amazed.  Is anyone still using AOL?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Macintosh

Thirty years ago today Apple introduced the Macintosh, and according to Anick Jesdanun, it’s still an influence in our lives.

Macintosh 01-24-14Look around. Many of the gadgets you see drew inspiration from the original Mac computer.

Computers at the time typically required people to type in commands. Once the Mac came out 30 years ago Friday, people could instead navigate with a graphical user interface. Available options were organized into menus. People clicked icons to run programs and dragged and dropped files to move them.

The Mac introduced real-world metaphors such as using a trash can to delete files. It brought us fonts and other tools once limited to professional printers. Most importantly, it made computing and publishing easy enough for everyday people to learn and use.

Apple sparked a revolution in computing with the Mac. In turn, that sparked a revolution in publishing as people began creating fancy newsletters, brochures and other publications from their desktops.

These concepts are so fundamental today that it’s hard to imagine a time when they existed only in research labs — primarily Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and his team got much of its inspiration from PARC, which they visited while designing the Mac.

The Mac has had “incredible influence on pretty much everybody’s lives all over the world since computers are now so ubiquitous.” says Brad Myers, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. “Pretty much all consumer electronics are adopting all of the same kinds of interactions.”

I remember seeing my first Mac.  It belonged to my brother, who showed it off on my sister’s kitchen table.  I was amazed with the mouse and the graphics.  After all, my first work with a computer was in 1967 with a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP 8/S which was the size of a kitchen refrigerator and ran off paper tape generated by a teletype machine.  So this little wonder was like going from a Model T to a Ferrari.  (“Little” is a relative term.  My brother’s Mac was the size of a small beer cooler.)

Apple_IIc_with_monitor

Apple IIc

Six months later I bought my first home computer.  It was the Apple IIc, which sold itself as the first “notebook” computer — as long as you didn’t need a monitor.  I used it until 1995, then switched to a Gateway PC with the awesome capability of a 2 gigabyte hard drive.  It cost $2,500, including monitor.  Now I’m using a Toshiba laptop with a 2 terabyte hard drive attached and it cost me $500.  (I still have the Apple IIc in its original boxes stored in the garage.  You can see it in the background of the photo in today’s Friday Catblogging below.)

There’s more computing power in my cell phone — which is just a plain phone, not a smartphone — than there was in that PDP 8/S, and I carry a 4 gig jump drive in my pocket.  I paid $10 for it.  I suppose your average iPad could land a man on the moon.

Technology is groovy.