Archive for January, 2011

Despite the Fact that it is Now the Year 2011…

Monday, January 24th, 2011

…we still have incidents like this. Really? Wow, OK. You have to watch the video. Next thing you know there’ll be sit-ins and protest marches and cross burnings and KKK rallies.

What? You mean this _isn’t_ 1954?

Securing the Security

Monday, January 24th, 2011

An enormous explosion ripped apart a Moscow airport, killing 31. It’s too soon to be sure whether or not this was an act of terrorism or some sort of accident, but that’s not stopping the conclusions from being jumped to.

Green said thousands of people were in the terminal at the time of the blast.

Domodedovo is generally regarded as Moscow’s most up-to-date airport, but its security procedures have been called into question.

If this was in fact a terrorist attack:
Increased security would only have changed where the act took place, it wouldn’t have prevented it. They’re aiming for the biggest crowd of people, and if that target is in the plane, in the terminal, or lined up nicely in the pre-screening screening area, that’s what will get hit.

If this was not a terrorist attack:
If they didn’t realize this already, terrorists everywhere now know that you can kill a bunch of people lined up in one spot in an airport.

We’d better spend more money on theater, rather than intelligence gathering.

Hey America, Why You So Fat?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Well, for one, there’s incidents such as the one I witnessed on my drive into work this morning. A school bus was coming from the opposite direction with its yellows on, so the truck 3 cars ahead of me stopped. As the bus stopped, I watched a child waddle from the parked, idling car at the curb to the bus. The bus waited, reds flashing, as the child found a seat; meanwhile the car backed up the drive to the house, did a U-turn in the drive, and parked. The house, incidentally, was maybe 150 feet from the curb. A woman (or, at least, what appeared to be a woman in the porch light) rolled out of the car and waddled back into the house.

So, its 35 degrees out. Your kid is too lazy to walk out to the bus? And you have to go out and start and warm up your car for the express purpose of driving 150 feet, idling for however many minutes they sat there until the bus arrived, and then driving back to the house? Congratulations, you are not only overweight and lazy, but you’re wasting probably 1/2 gallon of gasoline every day. Terrific.

Rogue GSM

Friday, January 21st, 2011

An interesting demonstration at Black Hat DC, proving how easy it is to create a fake GSM network and lure unsuspecting users into connecting to it.

From the article:

Ralf-Philipp Weinmann showed how to cobble together a laptop using open-source software OpenBTS and other low-cost gear to create a fake GSM transmitter base station to locate iPhones in order to send their owners a message. A number of iPhone users in the room expressed surprise that they had gotten a message asking them to join the network.

Weinmann, who is researching vulnerabilities in cellular networks, said that with the right equipment, the range for the rogue GSM station he built can be 35 kilometers.

Once someone is connected to a GSM station you own, of course, that means that their voice traffic will pass through it and can be easily recorded. Perhaps it’s time for an overhaul of the Clinton-era code underlying the GSM networks.

Test Post

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

This is the first post on my new blog. It is intended for testing purposes only. No warranties, real or imaginary, will be honored. Foo.

Soundminer

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Security researchers have developed an application for Android phones that listens to phone calls, and records any credit card numbers or PINs that are spoken or entered on the keypad.

Brave new world we’re living in. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure that the typical user carefully evaluates each application at install time. Yup.

Redistricting

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

So, once a decade the Common Council redraws the borders between districts. And now that time has come again.

Which makes me wonder – why are districts always assigned geographically? Is that really the most important quality, in this day and age?

Would it be possible to assign representatives to people based on, say, their quintile of income? Their occupation? Their level of education? Could voters select which of the winners of the popular election they want to represent them?

It seems like defining representation by geographical boundary is just assumed to be the standard, but I wonder if it’s still the best thing to do.

Goodbye, Little Red Envelopes

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

So it looks like Netflix is somehow intent upon pissing off a large portion of their customer base.

“Beefing up their streaming business, Netflix has predicted that in about two years their economics will be geared more toward their “Watch Instantly” service than through physical discs.”

Apparently they’ve already removed the “Add to Queue” option from their lists when viewed on a streaming device.

I understand, of course, why they are doing this. Money. It cost money to buy DVDs, replace them when they are scratched, mail them, store them, have people process them, etc. Electronic storage space costs very little, and bandwidth is getting cheaper. However, they are missing several points:

1) Sometimes, people want to watch movies where they don’t have internet access, or internet access capable of streaming. So they’ve pissed off all their rural customers.

2) Streaming video quality is far below that of DVD’s. MUCH less than Blue-Ray. So they’ve pissed off their videophiles.

3) Some folks who have stream-capable bandwidth have usage restrictions- for example, my Sprint broadband restricts me to 5 gig of download per month. Normally, this isn’t an issue, but I can burn through a gig with just one movie. Again, pissing off the internet-limited.

4) From what I’ve seen, the majority of Netflix’s library is not available for streaming. Perhaps this will change, but the main reason I have Netflix is not to watch the latest thriller, but to see all those movies from the last 80 years or so that I haven’t seen yet. Frankly, I don’t much care about the latest Ben Affleck/ Adam Sandler/ Jennifer Anniston romp/ Gwenneth Paltrow romp. Pissing off the movie connesoiur.

5) Broadband capacity in this country is still staggeringly pitiful. Can you imagine millions of people getting home every night and attempting to stream their favorite sitcoms? Chaos. Pissing off everybody.

Bottom line: If Netflix eliminates DVDs, I’m eliminating Netflix.

I Accidentally All The Passwords

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Apparently it’s a bad idea to give one IT person ultimate power at a company. Who knew? A fairly well written article that details some pretty bold frauds, this piece is clearly geared toward computer semi-literate business folk. It explains in lay terms why it’s a bad idea for one single person to have absolute control over a network.

Obviously, at least one other person should have known the passwords. … Ed was entrusted with both administrative and security responsibilities. That meant he was monitoring himself.

Absolute power corrupts blah blah blah. People will never learn.

“We don’t have any cases where, after the fact, people said, ‘I can’t believe it — he was such a nice guy,'” says Cappelli.

I’m fairly certain the network admin coming off as a reclusive jerk has little to do with whether or not they’re a criminal. It might have more to do with the fact that every time something goes wrong, employees turn in to toddlers and yank the IT guy away from whatever important shit he’s doing to exclaim “the internets is broked!” Then once it’s all better, said employee doesn’t feel the need to listen to the IT guy to prevent future meltdowns. The bad eggs get mad and commit crimes, the good eggs grind their teeth and post on blogs.

Mayoral Churn

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Apparently, the newly-appointed acting mayor of Rochester has already stepped down. Into the breach comes R. Carlos Carballada, Buffalo native and member of the Canisius board of trustees.

Hey, when you’re done up there, could you fix Buffalo too?