Saturday, December 20, 2014

Here's the real reason North Korea hacked Sony. It has nothing to do with The Interview

Max Fisher says Here's the real reason North Korea hacked Sony. It has nothing to do with The Interview. "The effort that North Korean state media makes to convince us they're crazy gets to the three real reasons that North Korea launches these occasional attacks."

Those three reasons are:

  1. By appearing crazy North Korea's enemies (who are far stronger) try to avoid conflicts
  2. By keeping tensions high, they feed their internal propaganda machine, keeping the party in power
  3. it's really only two reasons

"This strategy of portraying itself as crazy is remarkably effective at securing North Korea's strategic goals. But it is also quite dangerous. By design, the risk of escalation is high, so as to make the situation just dangerous enough that foreign leaders will want to deescalate. And it puts pressure on American, South Korean, and Japanese leaders to decide how to respond — knowing that any punishment will only serve to bolster North Korean propaganda and encourage further belligerence. In this sense, the attacks are calibrated to be just severe enough to demand our attention, but not so bad as to lead to all-out war."

FYI, Ars Technica says State-sponsored or not, Sony Pictures malware “bomb” used slapdash code. "Compared to other state-sponsored malware that researchers have analyzed, 'It's a night and day difference in quality,' said Craig Williams, senior technical leader for Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group, in an interview with Ars. 'The code is simplistic, not very complex, and not very obfuscated.'"

Then again, Wired says, The Evidence That North Korea Hacked Sony Is Flimsy.

Is Jeb Bush Too Liberal To Win The Republican Nomination In 2016?

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight thinks Is Jeb Bush Too Liberal To Win The Republican Nomination In 2016?.


Harry Enten also of FiveThirtyEight is more blunt, Jeb Bush Might Have A Tea Party Problem In 2016. "What’s the tea party’s problem with Bush? He’s staked out relatively liberal positions on the Common Core education standards and immigration reform, which leaders of the tea party movement deeply despise. More generally, tea party voters prefer outsiders, and Bush is about as insider-y as it gets, with a brother and father having occupied the Oval Office."

Yet again, the GOP primaries are going to be interesting (and scary) to follow.

How the SR-71's Engine Works

Embiggening English: The Simpsons and changing language

Oxford Dictionaries has a OxfordWords blog and they recently wrote, Embiggening English: The Simpsons and changing language. It's a short post and mostly covers the big words: doh and meh, but you'll also find fun analysis like:

The infix -ma- is a Homerism, and it’s productive — metabomalism, pantomamime, macamadamia, saxomaphone — in words that already have too many syllables for Homer to handle.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winners of the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest

In Focus posts the Winners of the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest. "National Geographic Magazine just announce the winners of this year's photo contest. The Grand Prize Winner, Brian Yen, will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters to participate in its annual photography seminar. Gathered below are the winning images from the People, Nature, and Places categories, as well as honorable mentions, with captions written by the individual photographers. Be sure to see earlier selections of the entries, Part I, and Part II, earlier on In Focus. [19 photos]"

I find most of them interesting, but not exactly beautiful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Copper Bedrail Could Cut Back On Infections For Hospital Patients

NPR reports A Copper Bedrail Could Cut Back On Infections For Hospital Patients

"Hospital bed safety railings are a major source of these infections. That's what Constanza Correa, 33, and her colleagues have found in their research in Santiago, Chile. They've taken on the problem by replacing them, since 2013, with railings made of copper, an anti-microbial element.

Copper definitely wipes out microbes. 'Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term 'contact killing' has been coined for this process,' wrote the authors of an article on copper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. That knowledge has been around a very long time. The journal article cites an Egyptian medical text, written around 2600-2000 B.C., that cites the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water."

That's surprising and kind of clever, but I suspect that if this was deployed widely we would start to see a rash of hospital bed railing theft the way we're seeing one for copper pipes and wiring. I also wonder how often they'd need to polish them to avoid tarnish.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

iMore Best of 2014 Awards

iMore lists their Best of 2014 Awards for iOS and OS X products. Nice list.

Opinion analysis: Reasonable mistakes of law by police do not violate the Fourth Amendment

SCOTUSblog explains Opinion analysis: Reasonable mistakes of law by police do not violate the Fourth Amendment. "The exercise of police discretion to stop people on the street is front and center in today’s headlines. In this case, a North Carolina policeman stopped Heien’s car because it had a brake light that did not work. During the stop, Heien consented to a search of the car, which yielded cocaine in a duffle bag and Heien’s ultimate conviction for attempted drug trafficking. On appeal, the North Carolina appellate courts surprisingly ruled that the outdated state vehicle code required only one working brake light (‘a’ stop lamp, in the words of the statute); therefore, there had been no violation of law that would permit the stop. The officer made no error about the facts; but he had been mistaken about the meaning of the law. However, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled, the officer’s mistake about this law was ‘reasonable,’ and for that reason the Fourth Amendment right to be secure from ‘unreasonable … seizures’ was not violated. This morning’s [8-1] opinion in Heien v. North Carolina affirms that holding."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Torture, 'Meet the Press' and Cheney's Quest for Revenge - The Intercept

Dan Froomkin comments on Dick Cheney's Meet the Press Interview yesterday, Torture, 'Meet the Press' and Cheney's Quest for Revenge

"Cheney’s most telling response was to Todd’s questions about people who were detained completely by mistake but who were nevertheless tortured — in at least one case to death.

You have to be something other than a normal human being not to be troubled by that.

But Cheney’s response was: ‘I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.’

And he would famously do it all again. ‘I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective,’ he said. ‘‘I’d do it again in a minute.’

What Cheney was saying is basically: If you have a goal and you kill innocent people while you’re at it, tough shit. That is how terrorists think; it’s not how moral people think — or at least are supposed to think."

I still would like to see him tried for war crimes.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Expert

Not sure how I've missed this for so long. In dealing with clients....

Even better, Expert D. Scott Williamson provides the solution:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Net Neutrality News

Ars Technica reported Verizon admits utility rules won’t harm FiOS and wireless investments. "Internet service providers have consistently told the government that utility regulation of broadband would harm infrastructure investment. AT&T has (not very convincingly) claimed that it can't consider any new fiber upgrades while the Federal Communications Commission debates whether to impose utility rules on broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. But Verizon struck a blow to that narrative [Tuesday] when Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo said utility rules will not influence how Verizon invests in its networks."

Also, Ignoring AT&T and Verizon protests, FCC says “broadband” has to be 10Mbps. "Internet service providers that use government subsidies to build rural broadband networks must provide speeds of least 10Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for upload, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided [Thursday]. "That is an increase reflecting marketplace and technological changes that have occurred since the FCC set its previous requirement of 4Mbps/1Mbps speeds in 2011," the FCC said."

Gizmodo wrote, A Ton of Tech Companies Just Came Out Against Net Neutrality. "More than 60 huge tech companies including Intel, Qualcomm, Cisco, and IBM have written a letter to leaders in Congress and the FCC opposing net neutrality. The free and open internet isn't going to happen without a fight."

Rare photos of the SR-71 Blackbird show its amazing history

Rare photos of the SR-71 Blackbird show its amazing history

"SR-71s logged a combined total of 53,490 hours of flight time, of which 11,675 had been spent at Mach 3 plus. They flew 3,551 operational sorties for a total of 17,294 hours, during which more than a thousand surface-to-air missiles had been fired at them. All missed."

The Revolution in Biology is Here, Now

Mike Loukides wrote in O'Reilly Radar about the BioFabricate summit, The revolution in biology is here, now.

"What I saw, instead, was real products that you might never notice. Bricks made from sand that are held together by microbes designed to excrete the binder. Bricks and packing material made from fungus (mycelium). Plastic excreted by bacteria that consume waste methane from sewage plants. You wouldn’t know, or care, whether your plastic Lego blocks are made from petroleum or from bacteria, but there’s a huge ecological difference. You wouldn’t know, or care, what goes into the bricks used in the new school, but the construction boom in Dubai has made a desert city one of the world’s largest importers of sand. Wind-blown desert sand isn’t useful for industrial brickmaking, but the microbes have no problem making bricks from it. And you may not care whether packing materials are made of styrofoam or fungus, but I despise the bag of packing peanuts sitting in my basement waiting to be recycled. You can throw the fungal packing material into the garden, and it will decompose into fertilizer in a couple of days."

"Several people spoke about their work as “collaboration with biomaterial.” This is a unique and exciting perspective. In computing, we write programs that make computers do things. If the program doesn’t do what we want, we’ve made a mistake. We driving the process: the machine always does what it’s told. In electronics, we assemble parts that, again, do what we want (or not); they have no will of their own. We make things out of metal and concrete by bending and pouring. The metal never decides how to be bent, and the concrete never decides how to pour. Biology is fundamentally different. Biology has been creating and building for billions of years. Its creativity is quite distinct from human creativity; it has evolved extraordinarily efficient systems. So, it’s an act of hubris to talk about designing biological systems. We need to collaborate with biological systems and enable them to design themselves. We need to let them teach us what they are able to do, and build around that. Otherwise, fungus is just a bunch of mushrooms. Maybe tasty, but not a building material."

Mad as Hellas

Krugman: Mad as Hellas "The Greek fiscal crisis erupted five years ago, and its side effects continue to inflict immense damage on Europe and the world. But I’m not talking about the side effects you may have in mind — spillovers from Greece’s Great Depression-level slump, or financial contagion to other debtors. No, the truly disastrous effect of the Greek crisis was the way it distorted economic policy, as supposedly serious people around the world rushed to learn the wrong lessons. Now Greece appears to be in crisis again. Will we learn the right lessons this time?"

The Supreme Court and Rights for Pregnant Workers

Linda Greenhouse still does the best writing on Supreme Court cases. Her latest, Heavy Lifting describes Young v. UPS which is about the rights of pregnant workers.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

11 Secret Weapons Developed By Japan During World War 2

io9 describes 11 Secret Weapons Developed By Japan During World War 2. I'm impressed, with both the Japanese and the post. I'd only heard of the Purple encrypting machine.

My Current Desktop Wallpaper

APOD: 2014 November 28 - Portrait of NGC 281

US Navy approves first laser weapon for operation aboard Persian Gulf ship

Are Technica reports US Navy approves first laser weapon for operation aboard Persian Gulf ship "In speaking to USNI News, ONR Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder said that ‘The captain of [the USS Ponce] has all of the authorities necessary if there was a threat inbound to that ship to protect our sailors and Marines [and] we would defend that ship with that laser system.’ Klunder added that the laser weapon system would be used against drones, helicopters, or patrol craft.

Although the laser weapon system is not as powerful as other weapons aboard the Ponce, Christopher Harmer, senior naval analyst with the Institute for the Study of War told The Wall Street Journal that the directed energy of the laser aimed at a target would ‘cause a chemical and physical disruption in the structural integrity of that target.’ Harmer added that the advantage of the laser weapon system is that it can disable many oncoming targets without needing to reload ammunition: ‘as long as you've got adequate power supply and adequate cooling supply.’

The laser shot doesn't look like the photon torpedoes of Star Trek—in fact it looks like nothing at all. The energy beam is invisible (and costs the Navy $0.59 per shot, according to the WSJ). A press release from ONR stated that the laser weapon system was able to hit targets out of the sky and at sea in high winds, heat, and humidity without fail."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Story of 'A Love Supreme'

John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Supreme was recorded 50 years ago today. Here's an NPR piece, The Story Of 'A Love Supreme'.

Lewis Porter heads the masters program in jazz history and research at Rutgers University-Newark. He's the author of John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Porter says that simple idea culminating in the first movement with an unprecedented verbal chant by Coltrane forms the foundation of the entire suite. It's a theme Coltrane consciously uses in subtle and careful ways throughout A Love Supreme. For example, toward the end of part one, "Acknowledgement," Coltrane plays the riff in every key.

"Coltrane's more or less finished his improvisation, and he just starts playing the 'Love Supreme' motif, but he changes the key another time, another time, another time. This is something very unusual. It's not the way he usually improvises. It's not really improvised. It's something that he's doing. And if you actually follow it through, he ends up playing this little 'Love Supreme' theme in all 12 possible keys," says Porter. "To me, he's giving you a message here. First of all, he's introduced the idea. He's experimented with it. He's improvised with it with great intensity. Now he's saying it's everywhere. It's in all 12 keys. Anywhere you look, you're going to find this 'Love Supreme.' He's showing you that in a very conscious way on his saxophone. So to me, he's really very carefully thought about how he wants to present the idea."

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Judge rules that banks can sue Target for 2013 credit card hack

Ars Technica reports Judge rules that banks can sue Target for 2013 credit card hack "The decision could lead to significant changes in the way the cost of fraud is distributed among parties in the credit card ecosystem. Where once banks and merchant acquirers would have to shoulder the burden of fraud (which is how they have long justified increasing Interchange Fees), now, potentially, the order from Magnuson could pave the way for more card-issuing banks to sue merchants for not protecting their POS systems properly."

Month in Space Pictures

NBC shows the Month in Space Pictures "See a cosmic lighthouse, a tragic crash, a triumphant landing and other stellar images from November 2014."

Though I think their Egg Nebula image is from 2003.

The Torture Report

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program is out, aka The Torture Report. It's actually the 500+ page summary of the 6,000+ page report.

The summary begins with the following 20 findings and conclusions:

  1. The CIA's use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
  2. The CIA's justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.
  3. The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.
  4. The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.
  5. The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program.
  6. The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
  7. The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.
  8. The CIA's operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.
  9. The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA's Office of Inspector General.
  10. The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques.
  11. The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.
  12. The CIA's management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program's duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.
  13. Two contract psychologists devised the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.
  14. CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.
  15. The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA's claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced Interrogation techniques were inaccurate.
  16. The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques.
  17. The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious and significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systemic and individual management failures.
  18. The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program.
  19. The CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.
  20. The CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States' standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.

I'll sum up those as:

  • Torture didn't get good intelligence
  • The CIA lied about its effectiveness
  • The CIA was far more brutal to detainees than they said they were
  • The CIA lied to the DOJ, Congress, the White House, the media, and the CIA's Office of Inspector General. about the program
  • The CIA was bad at running it's own program and outsourced it and managed it badly

The New York Times does a good job explaining a few specific examples, Does Torture Work? The C.I.A.’s Claims and What the Committee Found.

Most insane ski line EVER

What happens when a 21st-century kid plays through video game history in chronological order?

Andy Baio wrote in Medium, Playing With My Son.

"Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming."

"On Eliot’s fourth birthday, I started him with a Pac-Man plug-and-play TV game loaded with arcade classics — Galaxian (1979), Rally-X (1980), Bosconian (1981), Dig Dug (1982), and of course, Pac-Man (1980) and three sequels, Super Pac-Man (1982), Pac-Man Plus (1982), and Pac & Pal (1983)."