Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A parable on Obamacare

Here endeth the lesson.


Heard from a friend about a new medical technology. His mother has a pacemaker with wi-fi access. The cardiologist logs into it by connecting to the home router and then read the current status and recent history. He can also make adjustments without having to have the patient come in to the office.

How secure is this? The doctor's computer, the network, the home router, and the device itself? 
"The issue is not restricted to pacemakers. Computerized hospital equipment is increasingly vulnerable to malware infections, according to a government panel. Technology Review reported that malware is “rampant” in healthcare environments, because under current US law, software used to run medical devices in hospitals must remain static once approved. It’s not that manufacturers cannot install anti-virus software or provide updates to fix security flaws, it’s that they will not do so, in order to remain in compliance with the Food & drug Administration."

More on Windows 10 and privacy

As a follow up to yesterday's post, here is an excellent, detailed walk through of what you should think about turning off when you install or upgrade to Windows 10.

Also, you will want to go to Microsoft's opt-out web page to get rid of targeted ads.

What will Obama's climate policy do to your electricity rates?

Quadruple them.  How do we know?  Because he said he wants the USA to get 28% of its electricity from renewables (vs. the current 4%)*.  There are multiple countries in Europe who get 30% of their electricity from renewables.  Guess what their electricity costs (and no fair peeking at the title of this blog post).

* The plan seems to exclude hydro power, which provides some more of our electricity.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Windows 10 doesn't have spyware

It is spyware:
I really want to upgrade to Windows 10, but have begun seeing stories come out about the new Terms and how they affect your privacy. It looks like the default Windows 10 system puts copies of your data out on the "cloud", gives your passwords out, and targets advertising to you. The main reason I am looking to upgrade is that Bitlocker is not available on Windows 7 Pro, but is on Windows 10 Pro, and Microsoft no longer offers Anytime Upgrades to Windows 7 Ultimate. However, I don't want to give away my privacy for security. The other option is to wait until October to see what the Windows 10 Enterprise version offers, but it may not be available through retail. Are the privacy minded Slashdot readers not going with Windows 10?
It's a pretty reasonable thread at Slashdot - meaning nobody accuses Bill Gates of putting puppies in a blender.  But the default Windows 10 privacy settings are really, really bad.  Basically they're Google snooping on everything that you do, except that they make you pay for the privilege of using their OS.

This is a good article on all the things you need to do to turn this off.  It's unclear whether the monthly Windows Update security fixes will reset the privacy settings to the defaults; Windows 10 users will want to check this each month.  It's less unclear whether Microsoft will share your usage habits with NSA - of course they will.

Or you can just switch away from Windows.  Microsoft is clearly looking for other ways to milk its customer base, and this snoop-o-matic presumably is only the first of many initiatives from Redmond.  Here's a balanced video from a couple years back discussing the pros and cons of switching to Linux from Windows.  Me, I made the jump a long, long time ago and have never looked back.

No built-in spyware on Linux, and you don't have to keep checking to see if some security fix just stealth changed your settings.  If you surf the web, read email and RSS feeds, and do Office app work, Linux will be fine for you.  If you game, why don't you have a Playstation?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Seikilos epitaph - Music from Ancient Greece

The Death of Paulus Aemilius at Cannae by John Trumbull, 1773
Two great battles were fought on this this day in the ancient world.  In 338 B.C. Philip of Macedon crushed the Greek city states at Chaeronea, setting the stage for his son the Great Alexander to embark against the Persian himself.  A century later in 216 B.C. Hannibal won perhaps the greatest victory of all time, utterly destroying  the Consuls Lucius Aemilius Pallus and Gaius Terentius Varro - and their eight legions - at Cannae in the southern part of the Italian peninsula.

What both of these locations had in common was that they were Greek, and would have recognized this music.  The Seikilos epitaph is an inscription from a tombstone outside the ancient Greek city of Ephesus.  While it may be the oldest musical inscription for which we have both the musical score and the lyrics, this is not entirely clear.

What is clear is that this musical style would have been familiar to both Philip of Macedon and many of the combatants at Cannae.  The lyrics are an epitaph from a man named Seikilos to his wife Euterpe.  They translate roughly as:
While you live, shine
Don't suffer anything at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll.
Good words to live by, infused with the still robust stoic philosophy so prevalent in the ancient Greek world.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Something Different

It was a Garand Match Saturday with a difference. It was the standard targets and the standard course of fire, but this time some of us shot it with .22s.

Several guys had the the Kimber target rifles that the CMP had for sale. I was using an old Winchester 75 with Redfield sights.

I'd never fired that rifle at 100 yards for score so I went out early and set up a target. I added 25 clicks of elevation, tried it, then added 12 more, and ended up taking 2 back off. That put rounds in the 10 ring. The rifle and the ammo were certainly capable.

The scores haven't been posted, but I am quite sure I was the weak link. I scored a 262 out of 300. Regular Shooting Buddy shot a 278. Neither of us won.

It was fun though and I need to spend some more time with the .22 because using the match for practice is not a recipe for success.

Thoughts on getting the house ready to sell

I'm getting Camp Borepatch ready to sell - the boys are getting their own swinging bachelor pad and Wolfgang and I would be rattling around in a big ol' empty place.  Plus, the market is roaring here in the ATL, and for once in my life I want to see what it's like to sell a house in an an up market.

And so I'm going through room-by-room clearing out junk and setting things up so that the house will show well.  I've discovered some interesting things:
  • I have boxes that I've never unpacked since moving here from Mordor on the Charles Massachussets.  "Boxes", as in plural.
  • I've discovered that the empty downstairs room that has the freezer and a fridge for the kids will make a dandy shop.  The table saw and other implements of destruction have decamped there.
  • I'm filling a Bagster with junk.  Bagsters are the shiznit.  I may get another before I'm done.
  • Crews (plumbing, landscaping, etc) are OK when you're (ahem) of a certain age.
  • I kind of think that I'm doing what's called "decorating".  I wasn't allowed to do that in the past ...
All in all, things are proceeding.  It's a bit odd to think that I will soon end up in the same situation where I was at FOB Borepatch - on my own, away from the family, only permanently this time.  It's very odd that I'm looking forward to this.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Standing Guard at the Recruiters

After the terror attack on the military recruiting station in Chattanooga last week there was a spontaneous response, people started showing up and standing guard in front of recruiting stations. 

There's a number of different ways to think about this. None of them (to me) make it seem like a good idea.

First, it's unsustainable. Just like the overreaction of the government at the airports after 9/11, every defensive action comes with an ongoing cost. It's one thing for one guy to go stand out for an hour or two. Setting up a guard schedule for every recruiting station in the U.S. during hours of operation? Not going to happen.

Second, if one of them did engage, what does the aftermath look like for them? Even if they stop a shooting in progress, what sort of legal implications do they face?

Third, if you did want to provide security, standing on the sidewalk in front of a recruiting station is not the way to do it. All that does is make you the first target. If you wanted to go stand watch on a recruiting station (or anywhere else), a concealed weapon and some undercover tactics would be more effective. Dress like everyone else, move around, sit in your car and read the newspaper, walk along the sidewalks, ride a bike. Hell, practice your skateboarding.

What socialism does to you

It makes people very unsympathetic to a Greek bailout by the EU:
Half a continent away from Athens, Milda is unimpressed. Watching reports of the Greek predicament on the news, the Latvian pensioner has little sympathy for her counterparts 1,800 miles to the south.

“Can’t they get by on €120 a week?” she asks, referring to the latest cash limits on pensioners introduced in Greece. “Life’s less expensive down there. It’s warmer, they don’t have to pay for heating or winter boots, and fruit and vegetables must be cheaper.


From central European minnows such as Slovakia to Baltic eurozone republics such as Latvia and Lithuania, hard-pressed pensioners and workers earning barely €500 a month are at a loss as to why Greece should qualify for more largesse.

Milda’s monthly pension is €293 a month , well under half the current level in Greece. When Latvia went through a similar debt crisis in 2009, it imposed swingeing budget cuts and tax increases worth about 15% of GDP over three years. Output fell by a quarter and unemployment soared to more than 20%. The population fell as people left in droves.

These measures were hugely controversial at the time, and many people thought they would lead to catastrophe. The US economist Paul Krugman predicted at the end of 2008: “Latvia is the new Argentina.”

By the second half of 2010, however, the economy had started to grow again, and from 2011 to 2013 Latvia was among the fastest growing countries in the EU. Despite the fact that the currency was not devalued, exports are now at record highs, some 60% above where they were before the crisis.
I remember being in Poland in 1996.  The Poles thought that their long term prospects were better than those of the former East Germany.  I asked why, and they told me "Because we know that we have to do this for ourselves.  Nobody is going to help us out."

A couple days ago, ASM826 posted about the implosion of K-Mart.  It's so bad that they're starting to look like Venezuelan supermarkets:

Basic needs of the people are not being met in the South American country where socialism is in full effect. There have been shortages of toilet paper and diapers, people have to wait in line to pay over $700 for a condom, and most recently the government is asking for a share of produce from shopkeepers following a food crisis.
There was an old saying in Africa, back during the Cold War.  If the ruling elites wanted their kids to grow up to be socialists, they would send them to university in Paris.  If they wanted them to grow up to be capitalist, they would send them to university in Moscow.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More lies from the NSA?

NSA claimed that they were not allowed to listen in on a call from San Diego to Osama bin Laden in the run up to 9/11, and therefore needed the PATRIOT Act and the massive domestic surveillance program to prevent this from happening again.  Former NSA insiders are disputing this, saying that this was an internal NSA screw-up on multiple levels:
In an agency filled with secrets, the NSA’s failure to detect the 9/11 plot or help other agencies do so is probably its deepest and darkest. For years, rather than reveal the true nature of the blunder, the agency has instead propagated the fable that it missed that San Diego call in 2000 for technical reasons. Consequently, the Bush and Obama administrations conducted what amounted to ironclad surveillance of Americans’ phone activity for more than a decade.

The dragnet metadata operation, finally declared illegal by a federal appeals court this year, was likely the largest and most secretive domestic surveillance program ever undertaken. Yet the public only became aware thanks to the information leaked by Edward Snowden. Today, other NSA whistleblowers are claiming that the program was based on a lie. They’re also demanding answers to tough questions: How were certain key phone numbers missed in surveillance—or were they at all? And why did the NSA refuse to share with the CIA and FBI the full details of what it collected from bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen?

Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, it seems time for the NSA and the White House to reveal what really happened—and to replace, once and for all, fiction and lies with facts and the truth.
This is Jim Bamford, so you might take this with a grain of salt.  However, he has sources on record here; also, General Clapper is still not behind bars for perjury before Congress.

Told ya

Tam gets her security blogging on:
While the nerd community on social media is absolutely freaking out over the possibility of "hacking sniper rifles", I can't help but think that being able to hack a Tracking Point rifle is like knowing how to hot-wire a Ferrari Enzo: Fascinating at parties, but not a skill you'll get much chance to ever use.
Your humble host on the subject, a couple years ago:
When I saw this I said to myself, "Self, what do you bet that there's no security in that wireless server?"  My Self is pretty nasty and suspicious, and thinks that if he reached into the bag of 'sploits you'd pwn that rifle before you could say "Hey Verne, hold mah beer."  Like I said, he's nasty and suspicious.

But the chances that the code is wide open is high.  What would you do if you took over Sund00d's high tech scope?  Change the aim point so that it shoots wide by 10 MOA?  This scenario is filled to overflowing with LULZ.
Not that it took any deep insight or genius to make that particular call, but I did told ya ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Today in 1967

July 29th, 1967 is the day of the fire on the Forrestal.

Up tempo operations had lead to a shortage of ordnance and the day before there had been a delivery of old bombs from Subic Bay, some dating back to 1953. These bombs had been stored outside for years and were so obviously degraded that some officers wanted to dump them overboard immediately.

Instead they were kept with plans to use them the next day. It was a brutally bad decision.

The fire started by the accidental discharge of Zuni rockets across the deck. The rockets tore open the fuel tanks on an A-4 and ignited the fuel. The deck crews should have had 10 minutes to extinguish the fire before the bombs would have be at risk. The first of the old bombs detonated in a minute and half. Those first detonations killed most of the trained firefighters on the ship.

134 died, 161 were injured. They nearly lost the ship.

Non Sibi Sed Patriae 
--Inscribed over the Doors of the Chapel at the Naval Academy


The local K-Mart is closing. I went out there today and walked around. The building and the fixtures looked tired. It was clearly in decline and if other K-Marts look like this it's just a matter of time.
They are consolidating the remaining stock in the front of the store. This is what it looks like in the back.

When we lived in South Carolina, K-Mart used to be the only chain department store in town. There was no on-line shopping, although Sears still had a catalog. Mostly, if K-Mart didn't have it, you put it on a list and went looking for it the next time you drove to Savannah.

I stopped going in K-Marts when they stopped carrying ammunition. I didn't even care why they stopped, it was enough. That was 1999. Looks like my boycott worked.

UPDATE: As twocents pointed out in the comments, Sears continues to have catalog sales. I had no idea. I have not shopped in Sears for years. 

A lesson on discrimination for the USA from Europe

Why a lesson for us?  Because Europe seems to be 20 years ahead of us in the Progressive March, and because we're always told that we "need to be more like Europe" by our Betters™ here.  So what's coming?

George X. Doležal: ČEZ has discriminated against the Romani [Gypsies]. It didn't let them steal power.

The European Court of Justice has made a groundbreaking verdict against our ČEZ. To steal electricity is, as the judges implicitly state, a democratic right. The provider of power isn't allowed to place any technical hurdles that would prevent the consumer from stealing electricity. If the provider does so, it is discrimination.
Get ready, here it comes.  It may be part of Donald Trump's appeal that he's the only one who would actively denounce this sort of thing.