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IT News Blurbs This Week

Here are a few news items from the many email newsletters I get each week that seem interesting, for one reason or another, and their source if you would like to read further.

You DST Me! (But do I even care?)

For many, the spring session of the bi-annual nonsense of changing clocks for Daylight “Savings” Time is this Sunday, March 13.  Apparently, the State of Arizona in the United States does NOT follow “Daylight Saving Time” at all. Indiana also used to follow this policy of consistency and reliability over the spring and fall rituals of racing about the house changing clocks forward or back one hour supposedly so that business in the State (and jobs for normal working class Hoosiers) is increased because we are on the same time as New York and other States who don’t give a gnat’s behind about us. I have never seen any legitimate, evidence based, statistical proof (such as lower unemployment) that this spring and fall nonsense has brought one more job to Indiana, none-the-less the issue plagued our Legislature for years until finally we were condemned to the same ritual other less sensible States follow, most likely on the basis of shouting, golf game buddies, and too many glasses of premium beer.

Apparently, today Arizona now stands tall and alone as The State emotionally mature enough to resist the need to be like everybody else because an unsubstantiated rumor says they should switch to the insanity called Daylight Savings Time. But has it mattered? Does Arizona hurt in any way because they don’t bother racing around their State, like a Jack Russel Terror on too much espresso barking at the door bell, changing every microwave, VCR, stove, and beeping vacuum cleaner robot’s clocks in their State twice a year? Is it Spring Back, Fall Forward; or Spring Forward, Fall Back? You can’t remember either? Mayby it’s two steps back for every one forward….

However, this article in Network World discusses the impact of Daylight Savings Time on the IT industry in Arizona. The article quotes Network World Test Alliance partner Joel Snyder, who lives in Arizona, and is a senior partner at Tucson-based consulting firm Opus One:

Arizona doesn’t participate (in DST) because it doesn’t make sense.

Actually, it’s not clear to me that DST makes sense anymore in any context, but certainly the original idea was to save energy by shifting schedules to increase the amount of daylight that people had.

Well, in Arizona, as I like to say when answering this question, we already have plenty of daylight.

He continues on later

From a technical point of view, generally, it’s not a problem. In fact, before the era of NTP, I used to watch with great amusement as my colleagues all around the U.S. had to be up at 2 in the morning to switch their clocks one way or the other twice a year. In some companies it was a very big deal; I used to work for CompuServe and they billed by the second (actually they billed by the jiffy, but that’s a different story) and if you lost an hour of time — or accidentally charged a customer for an hour when they’d used a second — that was a big deal.

I notice from his comments that Daylight “Savings” Time has apparently always created hassles for business, not simplified things. Anytime you must pay employees to sit up at 2:00 AM just to change clocks so customers do not get miss-billed, that must be expensive. Anytime you must deal with mad customers because they did get miss-billed due to the DST change, or their misunderstanding of it, that has also got to be expensive — maybe even costing the State jobs instead of helping. He also mentions that early PDAs had some quality control to them and tended to get DST correct, but mobile devices these days lack much pride in workmanship, even so far as selling a device that costs $20 to make for $600 and can’t even multi-task or run flash, or selling a device where the antenna is exposed and stops working whenever a person holds it to make a phone call. More often than not these devices do not even get DST right — he says that even Microsoft Outlook still doesn’t do DST properly.

It seems to me we that we did the world no favors by switching to DST: we should have stood with Arizona as an example for the rest of the world to see that the concept of DST was outdated and that people everywhere are sophisticated enough today to understand it is a different time in London or New York or Tokyo than it is in Indianapolis. We would have stayed a technological leader in that case, being on the cutting edge of the wave of future policy, and it would have been far easier on the technology and require much less trouble for businesses and citizens.

You watch it: it watches you

Cable and Satellite TV content companies have been using their customer’s TV’s to observe their customers, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal By Jessica E. Vascellaro. The article is at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704288304576171251689944350.html.

Data firms and technology companies are using TV watchers’ personal data to help sell targeted ads, Jessica Vascellaro reports. We discuss how cable and satellite co’s are mining this data, how they’re using it to stay ahead in the age of the Internet – and how you can opt out of being tracked.

Data-gathering firms and technology companies are aggressively matching people’s TV-viewing behavior with other personal data—in some cases, prescription-drug records obtained from insurers—and using it to help advertisers buy ads targeted to shows watched by certain kinds of people.

Now that’s not actually surprising, but it is disturbing. They get into your medical records to target ads on your TV. On computer we expect this kind of thing — some of us even put little covers on our webcams to prevent clandestine use without our consent, but outside of some wacked out sci-fi book, who would imagine their TV doing the same thing?

This new wave in monitoring Americans is driven, in part, by fear: The TV industry is moving quickly lest it lose ground to Internet advertising companies, which have found they can charge a premium for online ads that target individual people based on their specific interests.

In a rallying cry last month at a TV ad-targeting conference hosted by Broadcasting & Cable, one keynote speaker cited the space race of a half-century ago: “This is our Sputnik moment,” said Tracey Scheppach, senior vice president at Starcom MediaVest Group, a unit of advertising firm Publicis Groupe SA.

Visible World’s founder, Seth Haberman, says his company doesn’t know the names or personally identifying information about the people sitting in front of a given set-top box.

You mean they really do have a camera in those things that is literally recording video of you watching TV in your own “private” home?!!!!!
There is more information in the article than you wanted to know — including some examples of companies, such as the US Army, which have used this technique for their profit, and a side bar with instructions on how to “opt out” of being spied upon. It didn’t mention if they used a little camera in the TV to record what you and your spouse do after the popcorn runs out — in the future there could be a TV channel with content solely based upon ‘real people’ with a continuous slide show of pictures taken of people falling asleep with drool running out one side of their mouths. I agree with Haberman’s last comment in the WSJ article: “It is a little spookie.'”

I guess former FBI head and cross dresser  J. Edgar Hoover really is finally getting his request: now there really is a TV camera in almost every bedroom. Now that’s just creepy.

Perk Up

If you are interested in the perks CEOs get, there is a slideshow at http://www.networkworld.com/slideshows/2011/030911-ceo-perks.html.

Stupid Americans! Ha! Ha!

A Baseline Magazine article by Jennifer Lawinski has a slideshow on the techniques used by cyber criminals to manipulate Americans. It is at http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Features/Seven-Human-Weaknesses-That-Cyber-Criminals-Exploit-876389. Basically they use our cultural instinct to help others to rob us, or try using greed or sex as traps.

Successful cybercrime often depends on the kindness of others – trusting souls who believe that Facebook message , LinkedIn request or Tweet they received is on the up-and-up. Understanding this vulnerability to social networking platforms is an IT imperative; nice people like your colleagues are easy pickings for cybercriminals

The show is quick, and merciful.

Business Skills from On-Line Gaming

Another article from baseline Magazine by Dennis McCafferty shows which computer gaming skills provide an advantage in business. The article is http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Intelligence/Eight-Gaming-Skills-That-Pay-the-Bills-383334.

Do you think of hours spent playing Call of Duty as professional development time? It’s not such a stretch. Gaming culture helps people thrive in a corporate environment, according to Aaron Dignan, founder of Undercurrent, a digital strategy firm. Games stress peak learning conditions and focused achievement, allowing participants to sharpen professional skills and discover untapped strengths.

It is only eight (8) slide long, but food for thought. And with that idea in mind, I should be off to test his theory with a bit of LOTRO.


The Real Reason Open Source is Growing: Paranoid Politicians

Note: this article is the writers personal opinion. It is based upon almost 40 years of experience in small computers and communications, but it is still an opinion. It is presented AS IS. All use is at your own risk.


As a consumer advocate and somewhat self-interested business owner, my evaluation of any circumstance or potential change involves the instinctive question as to how it will affect me, or more candidly, how it will hurt me and what I can do to protect myself. Everyone does that. What really waves a red flag is when someone is less than transparent with us: employment interviews, contracts, or whatever.

In a United States where Constitutional Law is a variable which can be changed upon a whim for government convenience, where citizens are forced to stand spread eagle in front of a machine that electronically removes all their clothing so that their naked bodies (lots of links to this, and here, and here, and here,  and a story of how one man successfully protected his constitutional rights here, and it actually has created a new market for privacy protection, see here) are studied in detail  in a back room with promises that the powerful image processing computers they use cannot possibly save the image file for use later (see here and here and here and here), such as for evidence, or to send 50,000 of those images back to the factory for “technical” reasons, even if they whipped out their cell phone and took a pic of the computer screen, and then those citizens are sexually assaulted and their genitals actually fondled by minimum wage ‘security’ personnel who can’t get a job anywhere else, under the unsupportable excuse of airport ‘security’ (so far as we know to this date not one terrorist has ever been caught by this system, although many citizens with medical problems have had their urine dumped all over them, etc.), it is not too difficult to see how someone could find a clause in that 1,000 page “Homeland Security Act” that allows everything on anyone’s computer to be provided to some ‘security’ agency for the same excuse that they sexually assault the young women who wear dresses in airports: ‘just in case there might be something in there’ of interest. The only thing this systematic dehumanization of American Citizens does is restrict travel.


The US Constitution refers to both as Unreasonable Search. It is highly illegal from the most fundamental level. So far as we know to this date not one terrorist has ever been caught by this system: the only thing this systematic, criminal, dehumanization of American Citizens does is restrict travel.


Don’t get me wrong on this:  I have seen pictures taken by a modification of the typical Airport Porn Machine, er full body scanner, which is mounted in an unmarked “ZBV” (Z Backscatter Van) cruising the streets in southwestern towns and used to scan vehicles to find illegals. Look here and here and here. Most of the pics have been quickly censored by the perpetrators, since they are in a position to do that to cover their tracks. I am told several thousand of those vans are out there, working, right now. I have not made one complaint about it. I really don’t care if they scan people ad infinitum in airports, or city streets, or anywhere — BUT DON’T RUB IT IN OUR FACE. Have a little professionalism about how you law enforcement types break the law. Demonstrate enough respect for our Constitution that you don’t violate our most fundamental Rights of Citizenship by treating American Citizens as if they are middle ages European serfs. Scan me anytime you feel like it BUT DON’T TELL ME ABOUT IT.

If ‘security’ agencies can get away with forcing young women to stand spread eagle in public and submit to genital groping for no reason other than they are wearing a dress and ‘there might be something under there’ in front of dozens of witnesses then shouldn’t it be far easier to excuse cyber spying that no one can prove is happening? Note that it is not good enough if the young woman takes off her dress in public and stands there humiliated wearing nothing but her panties so there can be no possible doubt that she is not concealing anything: a young man in California did this already and a group of German protesters did this also: the ‘security’ person must stroke up and down the citizen’s inner thighs and then feel around their genitals.

This is heinous. There is no excuse for this. And the extreme outrage in this whole lie is that the demographic most likely to actually BE trying to conceal something are exempt from the whole procedure because ‘it is against their religion’. It is against most American Citizen’s religions also, but that doesn’t seem to matter as American Citizens are not likely to perpetrate acts of violence in revenge.


How bad is merely copying information from some business’s PCs compared to such systematic and highly illegal public dehumanization of American Citizens without so much as a mildly plausible excuse? Why would there be any qualms at all about illegally spying on American businesses if it is considered perfectly acceptable for government to line up Free Citizens and treat them like 6th century European serfs? There probably are not.


For two decades, at least a few of us denizens of planet Earth have pondered the implications of allowing Microsoft inside our corporate firewall: Microsoft is proprietary software, therefore we normally cannot know (at least without packet sniffers and a lot of hard work) what Microsoft software *really* is doing because we cannot inspect the actual code. Who knows what it will do because of defects in design or coding, or from unintended malware or virus programs, or most importantly of all, from under the table deals with data mining corporations and government agencies intent on voyeurism with the money to buy off Microsoft and get their own little secret code segments added to Windows for the collection and transmittal of my private, highly confidential, information. Information whose unauthorized disclosure could get my company fried under Sarbanes Oxley or HIPPA or 42CFR.

There has always been some following to conspiracy theories — there are doubtlessly still people who are absolutely certain that the earth is really flat and all the space flights merely elaborate government hoaxes. But the conspiracy theorists gain some credibility when Microsoft Windows code segments leak out with little data blocks marked “NSA Block #1” and “NSA Block #2”, and certain folders, such as C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\TemporaryInternetFiles\Content.IE5 which don’t exist if I try to find them while using Microsoft Windows but very much do exist and contain a complete history of my web browsing if I examine that same disk with a non-Microsoft OS, such as Linux. There are nine (9) such folders on my Windows 7 install: one in each user account and another in the Windows and System32 folders.

The damning part of this isn’t that a history of all content browsed is collected but rather that such extreme effort has been expended to conceal the fact from the business owner. One does begin to wonder if the conspiracy theorist nuts do have a valid concern at least part of the time. Everything you see on your computer and everything you type on your computer goes through your computer. It might be encrypted on the Internet, it might be scrambled and encrypted on your disk, but at some point in time it was readable. And if you could read it using your computer, then your computer *could* secret it away in nice, plain, readable form, so it *could* be forwarded to some interested third party without your knowledge or consent.

One of the more important forces driving adoption of Linux as “the” operating system a company will use on most of its computers is not just acquisition cost, or legal cost to maintain license records, or cost of special anti-malware software, but a reasonable fear that a huge, ultra rich corporation, might possibly care more about their own profit than the business’ privacy. In one of my businesses, the penalty is $240,000 per unauthorized disclosure of protected customer health information, so it matters.


Now consider how a foreign government which is a rival or antagonist to the United States government must think. The United States has no moral hindrance to dehumanizing their own citizens in a way that would result in immediate execution of the perpetrator in most countries, and probably spies on businesses electronically. Would the Americans spy on their rivals and enemies as well? Oh yeah.


According to an article in the Wall Street journal, Saturday-Sunday, January 8-9, 2011 (Review, page C3):

In the past, foreign governments have rushed to install the latest version of Microsoft Office or Google’s Chrome browser because it was hard to imagine that Washington would tinker with technology to advance its strategic interests. But just a few weeks before Mr. Putin publicly endorsed open-source software, FBI Director Robert Mueller toured Silicon Valley’s leading companies to ask their CEO’s to build back doors into their software, making it easier for American law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies to eavesdrop on online conversations. The very possibility of such talks is likely to force foreign governments to reconsider their dependence on American technology.

Half a decade ago I remember France jettisoned 50,000 Windows computers and replaced them with Mandrake Linux. China has of late been often in the news due to their isolationist / control policy concerning Internet use, to the point there are sometimes references to “The Great Fire Wall of China”. The WSJ article also observed:

… more governments are likely to start designating Internet services as a strategic industry, with foreign firms precluded from competing in politically sensitive niches.

The article mentions that Turkey is already considering a ‘national search engine’ and a ‘national email system’ and that Russia, China, and Iran have similar ongoing discussions. Remember the fight between Google and China last year, and the situation between Iran and RIM when Iran demanded the ability to read all Blackberry emails. The article says India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates made similar demands on RIM last year.


And so the mechanism that is propelling open-source software into global dominance may not be technical superiority, or freedom, or even an elitist attitude: the driving force may simply be the lust for power and control, or paranoia about what someone else could do, or perhaps just reasonable caution.


And that necessitates another very important point for American Security — more important to our national security than making teenage girls submit to having their thighs caressed by a guard who says they ‘might have something under their dress’ as a condition of being allowed to fly home for the holidays: Microsoft is the largest employer of non-American H-1B visa programmers in the US — often from Asian countries who are our rivals. Can we Americans be absolutely positive that none of those 5,000 plus foreigners added their own countries’ little back doors, for their own purposes? I doubt that there is really any way that anyone can know with absolute safety. If you doubt this could happen, remember the Department of Homeland Security has already been compromised by a root kit hidden on Sony music CDs: one employee played one music CD in his computer, and the root kit spread through out the one place in America that is supposed to be the very most secure.

We had better spend our time and money fixing that problem first — a terrorist back door leaking our nation’s top security information via Microsoft Windows will hurt us far worse than a little school girl who just wants to get home from university.