Thursday, June 16, 2011

Current Conditions: Partly Cloudy. Forcast: A Bad Storm A Comin'

Which doesn’t belong:

IMF, Apple, Google, the U.S. Senate, Sony, Lockheed Martin, Chase, CIA

To my knowledge, only Apple hasn’t been hacked.  I’ve written about this before; but, for the life of me, I don’t understand putting anything important in “the Cloud.”

First, there is no “cloud.”  The Cloud is a bunch of servers sitting all over the place – you send your stuff to them and they will let you retrieve it. Usually.  If all of the entities listed above can’t keep hacker’s out, why does anyone think they can protect your important stuff?

If someone wants to hack the text of my Gmail’s, fine. I never use Gmail for anything important, precisely because it’s all sitting on Google’s servers ready to be hacked.  For work, I use a domain service that deletes Emails when they are downloaded by me – it’s scary enough that I’m trusting strangers for the short time the Emails are in their servers.

The trouble with the Cloud is that it makes vandalism and theft a lot more efficient.  It used to be that bad guys had to physically break in and take or damage your stuff.  Now they can sit in a basement, drinking Mountain Dew, and wreak havoc at their leisure.

Cyber-war is a word we’re hearing more and more about.  The U.S. is thought to have screwed up Iran’s nuclear reactors by messing with the computers used to run them.  Someone in China hacked Google and Lockheed Martin.

Computers and the internet were supposed to be a boon to mankind.  We just forgot that mankind is the reason we can’t have nice stuff.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

As it turns out, it turns on timing,...

the constitutionality of health care reform, that is.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on “Obamacare” yesterday. Most of the time was spent on the “individual mandate” which would make us buy insurance or pay a “fine” to be collected by the IRS. The Government argues that the requirement is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, which says “[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes….”

The question for the Court is whether people are “engaged in commerce,” which Congress can regulate, while sitting in their living rooms and refusing to buy health insurance. Paul Clement, representing states and individuals opposing the law, said they weren’t. But then he conceded that a broke and bleeding person on a hospital doorstep that didn’t have insurance could be forced to buy it before he was treated. At that point, seeking health care, he was “engaged in commerce.” By that logic, a person sitting in his living room, suffering a heart attack while doing nothing, runs afoul of Congress’ power and engages in commerce when he dials 911 for an ambulance. What if he does nothing and his neighbor makes the call for him?

This debate seems to be a matter of form over substance. No one argues that Congress could increase income tax rates by whatever percentage was necessary to pay for a national health care plan. Congress, in its wisdom or folly, decided that everyone needs to have health care. Wisely or foolishly, it devised a plan to pay for it.

This is exactly the kind of issue that judges do poorly at and are always required to deal with when politicians are divided.

Conservatives are always arguing that “the will of the people” should prevail until that will, as expressed in a law they don’t like, comes to their attention. (I’m not saying Liberals haven’t done the same thing.) Conservatives didn’t have the votes last year to stop Obamacare and don’t have them this year to repeal it.

Maybe, just maybe, if the people in Congress decided to talk to each other and stop engaging in brinksmanship they could come up with a better way to deal with everyone’s need for health care. If pigs could fly….

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Which President said what, when?

One of these quotes is from GWB, one from BHO:

“As president, I can promise you your country will be with you every single step of the way.  We’re not going anywhere… We will be with you every step of the way.”

“In the life of this nation, we have often been reminded that nature is an awesome force, and that all life is fragile. We are the heirs of men and women who lived through those first terrible winters at Jamestown and Plymouth,  who rebuilt Chicago after a great fire, and San Francisco after a great earthquake , who reclaimed the prairie from the dust bowl of the 1930s. Every time, the people of this land have come back from fire, flood, and storm to build anew – and to build better than what we had before. Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature – and we will not start now.”

Were I a resident of Tuscaloosa, Joplin or Springfield, I'd be a bit worried.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Adhesion and the Internet

Over the last few months I’ve been playing with a new DSLR and Photoshop (the latter kicking my butt regularly).  When I produce something I like, I sometimes post it to my Facebook page, but not using Photoshop or iPhoto.

Why you ask?

Here’s what iPhoto wants from me in return for uploading a picture (and Photoshop is similar):

Access my basic information
Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I've shared with everyone.

Post to my Wall
iPhoto Uploader may post status messages, notes, photos, and videos to my Wall

Access my profile information
Likes, Music, TV, Movies, Books, Quotes, About Me, Activities, Interests, Groups, Events, Notes, Birthday, Hometown, Current City, Website, Religious and Political Views, Education History, Work History and Facebook Status

Access my contact information
Online Presence

Access my family & relationships
Significant Other and Relationship Details and Family Members and Relationship Status

Access my photos and videos
Photos Uploaded by Me, Videos Uploaded by Me and Photos and Videos of Me

Access my friends' information
Birthdays, Religious and Political Views, Family Members and Relationship Statuses, Significant Others and Relationship Details, Hometowns, Current Cities, Likes, Music, TV, Movies, Books, Quotes, Activities, Interests, Education History, Work History, Online Presence, Websites, Groups, Events, Notes, Photos, Videos, Photos and Videos of Them, 'About Me' Details and Facebook Statuses

Why does iPhoto need info about my Facebook Friends, all of my contact information, my “relationships,” etc. to transmit a lousy picture?  A short answer, it doesn’t; but, it does want the info and forces me to give it if I want to use its services.

iPhoto, Photoshop, Android, and iPhone “permissions” are adhesion contracts.  Want a mortgage, an apartment, Windows?  Say yes to all the terms or you don’t get what you want.  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt don’t negotiate with their customers.  Yes it’s “opt-in” which is an improvement over “opt-out,” Facebook’s infamous mode of operation.  And it’s transparent, another trendy word these days.  But is it a good idea?

Law over the centuries has evolved to protect people in circumstances where they are dealing with someone that has all the leverage.  In most states, an exculpatory agreement is invalid or limited in its scope (think the tiny print on the back of your ticket for an amusement park, a raft trip and so on).  Most states have laws about what apartment complexes can put in leases and what banks can put in mortgages.   Utility companies are regulated by states.

Not so the internet – the wild, wild west.  Maybe it’s because it came about in the Reagan Eighties, grew up in the go-go Nineties and matured with last decade’s lasseze faire government approach to business regulation.

But, I think it’s time the internet is recognized for what it has become – a utility – “a public service, as a telephone or electric-light system, a streetcar or railroad line, or the like.

Your electric and gas companies can’t make you give them private information (beyond credit qualifications) as a condition of providing you their products.  You don’t have to give them your address book and disclose your current significant other.

Proposing that the government step in to protect consumers doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy given its track record with regulation of cable companies and the financial industry over the past few decades; but, it running interference might slow down some of the excesses of our new tech masters just as it did with Twentieth Century industry, before it pretty much gave up the fight.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I've been busy and...

find myself not having much to say in long form lately.  It may be that I've said everything and can only repeat myself.

Then too, if you look under the blog name, it says I write about things that interest, annoy or amuse me, or something like that.  Lately, with a lot to do professionally, I'm not interested in much else and even if I am, I don't have the time and inclination to write about it.  While I'm often annoyed, I'm getting used to it.  Amusement seems to come in small bits these days.

And I have to admit, small bits of amusement, annoyance and interest are ready made for Facebook.  If you want to see them, friend me:  Evad Knat.  I do promise I will not ever, ever go to Twitter: too small, small bits.