Archive for January, 2010

A Click Too Far

Friday, January 29th, 2010

An article on automated securities trading has been posted on Ars Technica. Much like the medical radiation article I posted last week, this is an excellent example of what happens when we outsource our responsibilities to technology. This time, a single errant mouse click led to a denial-of-service attack against the NYSE and a $150k fine for the good people at Credit Suisse.

Higher Calling

Friday, January 29th, 2010

A fantastic profile of Tony Dungy has been posted on the ESPN web site. He’s the antithesis of the stereotypical football coach – polite, not vulgar, humble, not arrogant. He walked away from a team that’s got at least one or two more Super Bowls wins ahead of it to work with at-risk youth in the prisons and streets of his city. He gives me hope that some day the NFL might have more coaches that are both successful and decent human beings.

It seems like an unfortunately rare combination.

Poor Apple

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I feel bad for Apple sometimes.

They’ve got a fanbase that can be described as occupying the continuum between “dedicated” and “zealous”, huge profit margins, plenty of success — but I still feel bad for them.

As you probably know, unless you’ve been in some sort of news-free zone for the last 24 hours, Apple released a tablet computer yesterday. There was no shock to this; rumors of an Apple Tablet have been floating around for, literally, several years now, ever since they integrated the old Newton handwriting recognition technology into OS X. Fanboys breathlessly panted that a slate-style tablet was clearly just around the corner.

Well, one long-ass corner later, and it’s here. And nobody is happy.

You see, Apple has phenomenal security. Nixon’s Plumbers couldn’t hope to stop leaks like these guys do. There’s nothing but dead air coming out of Cupertino when it comes to upcoming products. (Which is why they’re a terrible company for corporate IT to partner with, but that’s a rant for a different time.) So, since human nature abhors a vacuum, the Apple community has the biggest rumormill in the world of technology.

By the time this thing was finally announced, there were crazy predictions all over the place. It was going to be free, or at most, $99. Wireless 3G connectivity would be free, like on the Kindle. The screen would be flexible. It would be airdropped into impoverished third world countries, and cure lepers by its touch. And so on. The thing was super hyped.

And, for the first time I can remember, there was a backlash. Pundits said that the product wasn’t all that impressive, that Apple had really swung and missed on this one, that it was more Apple TV or MacBook Air than it was iPod. Apple has lost its mojo, Steve has lost his mind, it’s all a big disaster.

This all happened before Apple even announced a product, let alone intimated that they were making a tablet.

So, yesterday, when Steve climbed onto the stage and announced a perfectly nice, though flawed product – people were angry. They’d be expecting some revolutionary new paradigm, the dawning of a new era between man and technology, and what they got was essentially a larger, more polished iPod Touch. There’s nothing wrong with that, it seems like a nice little toy, but since it can’t prevent the heartbreak of gingivitis while julienning a potato – or whatever the fanboys were expecting – it was automatically A Big Failure. Because Apple isn’t competing against itself, or Microsoft, or Google, or anyone else here in the real world. It’s competing against the insane expectations of its petulant fan base.

Poor Apple.

Computer Espionage

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

An interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about online espionage, possibly coming from China, targeting American energy companies.

Every time I do a lecture on information security, I try to dispel what I call the Wargames myth. People still have this sort of romantic vision of hackers as awkward but brilliant loners, like the kid in Wargames. Sure, it’s technically illegal, but it’s just some misguided teenager who couldn’t get a date for the prom.

In reality, computer criminals are about as romantic and misguided as any other kind of criminal. There’s money in computer crime, and like anything else that offers easy money, it’s become an enterprise for serious criminals. There are actually Russian criminal syndicates offering scholarship for service programs now — young Ivan gets accepted into MIT, the Russian mob will pay his tuition if he agrees to come back to the motherland and write viruses for them when he’s done.

Computer networks have also become a major conduit for underground state-to-state warfare, as in this story. We’re competing with China for oil, and it’s entirely possible that the Chinese government has sanctioned some of these network attacks. Stealing the information about oil reserves straight from the oil companies saves hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sadly, there’s just not enough people like me out there – Infosec pros who know what they’re doing are pretty damn thin on the ground, and most of us have an anti-authoritarian streak that keeps us out of government employ. This is going to be a bumpy ride into a new Cold War.


Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I think I may have found the official shirt of the Big Men Break Spokes bicycle club.

Identify this Nonsense!

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

“So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! No soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber: and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.”


Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Should an obvious and outright fabrication of evidence by a police officer while under oath sink a prosecution? This guy thinks so.

Interesting read. A secondary, bonus message: exactly how much time, effort, and money is wasted to obtain a conviction for selling ten dollars worth of smack. Hey, let’s hear it for the War on Drugs! We’re winning, right?

Edison’s Kindle

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

An interesting article on Technologizer: fifteen technology ideas that were way ahead of their time, but whose basic concept came back as a commercial success a few decades later.

Include the Chrylser Highway Hi-fi, one of my favorite oddities.

Starve the Poor

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Having possibly just listened to the Aerosmith song “Eat the Rich”, SC Lt Gov. Andre Bauer recently made some (ehem) interesting comments about the poor:

“”My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better,” Bauer said.”

Uh, wow. I mean, I know this has sort of been the unofficial Republican party stance for years now, but still, to come right out and say it. That’s uh, I mean…Wow. But its OK, because now apparently he ‘regrets’ it.

I’m not really sure what to say here.

Inadvertantly traveling back in time.

Monday, January 25th, 2010


I made some snarky comment on Matt’s Facebook about Fotomat and had to Goggle it and see what I could find. I remember these things populating some of the parking lots around the area. Adam, correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t there one in the Garden Village Plaza?

I find it interesting to see stuff like this that in today’s world has been replaced by the computer and Walmart.

Oh I’m on my way to Vegas, wish me luck.