Month: October 2015

Tech Monday: China hacked US firms despite cyberpact

China hacked US firms despite cyberpact

It’s amazing how the governments of countries say one thing but do something completely opposite later on.  I think its absolute crap that the US and China agreed not to hack each other and steal intellectual property [IP].  It’s like telling a child that the big box in that room over there is full of candy, but there is an agreement with the rooms owner that they are not to go in there because they agreed to not each the candy.  It’s ridiculous.

I don’t doubt at all that China has again hacked 5 technology companies and two pharmaceutical companies.  Our intrusion systems are advanced enough to see that there is a lot of traffic coming from a particular country and IP range, so how can they deny it.  At the same time though, I know for a fact that the US is doing the same thing, but the difference is that they’re covering their tracks better and not getting caught.  The internet is more akin to the wild west than it is to a civilized online community.  Sure, there are people out there that don’t do this sort of thing…  how does that saying go? “one bad apple ruins the whole bushel”?

Adding to the problem is the increased use of what a lot are referring to as the “dark net” which is an encrypted and secretive underbelly of the commercial internet.  There is no getting on this part of the internet without knowing someone already in there to invite you in.  It’s estimated that over 20% of all traffic on the internet currently is tied in some way to the dark net.  If its illegal and you think it can be exploited online, its in the dark net.  Movies, music, software and even human body parts are listed somewhere on the dark net for the right price.  The most utilized currently in the dark net is Bitcoin as there isn’t any traditional method of tracing the source or recipient.

Hacking is going to continue and most likely get worse before something is done, if at all.  I personally hope I never have to be the victim of hacking during my lifetime, but with our ever increasing reliance on technology I fear that we’re heading for a disaster only seen in movies.

No one lives forever

My Dad called me on Monday evening to tell me that my Grandmother had passed away.  I had already known she was not doing well for several months with multiple problems stemming from her life long smoking habit.  My reaction was somewhat cold and it surprised me if I’m being honest.  I felt detached and removed from the whole situation and my expression of emotion mirrored that.

The last time I saw her was over two years ago when I went with my father to visit her in the nursing home.  It was Thanksgiving and it was just the two of us.  My wife had written off the situation as she has strong opinions about nursing homes and due to impressions over 15 years ago, my Grandmother wasn’t her favorite person.  I learned very early what a prejudiced and bigoted person acted like by observing my grandparents.  I was able to look past that and worked to avoid topics that would surface the negativity within both of them.  My wife on the other hand would be the antagonist and get both of them fired up.  Anyway, my recollection of the day is hazy as I found it hard to concentrate.  At this time, she had lost both legs above the knee, couldn’t see anything more than a few inches in front of her and was generally checked out mentally.  We were there over a half hour and had the same conversation four times.

My only real concern on Monday was that my Dad was okay.  He wasn’t.  I could hear him fighting back the choke in the throat that most men get when they’re emotional.  That affected me more than hearing she had passed.  I think my confusing non-emotional reaction threw him off though as he quickly moved onto the planning of the funeral, which is his comfort zone.  I know she wasn’t in any pain when she passed.  She was a horrible mother to both my father and his sister (my Aunt) and routinely abused them verbally and sometimes physically.  His reaction to the events was puzzling until I realized that it was his mother.  That fact will never change regardless of past events.

In the end, when he saw her the most vulnerable, I think he forgave her for past events.  At least that is what I hope happened, otherwise he won’t ever get past this.  I’m not looking forward to the funeral.  One line that sticks in my head ever since I saw it was the movie “A Fault In Our Stars” and it goes:  “Funerals are not for the dead, they’re for the living.”  That makes sense.

Tech Monday: Lenovo Takes a Stand Against Microsoft’s Surface

Lenovo Takes a Stand Against Microsoft’s Surface

This is an interesting one this week and highlights how cut throat the PC industry is starting to become.  It’s always been cut throat, but lately these companies are out for blood in my opinion.  Microsoft has always had the ability to manufacture their own hardware, but chose not to as there were plenty of hardware suppliers more than willing to work with them.  The software giant, not so much just software anymore, is branching out into areas that were solely reserved for their partners.

I can understand Microsoft’s point of view here.  Why negotiate with a third party on how you want your hardware to look since you’re putting your own name on it?  Design the thing internally, contract with a company in China and then just sell it on your own.  This way you don’t need to split profits with anyone.  Most OEM’s are in a struggle with Microsoft producing products that compete directly with their space.  They need the OS software to run their own devices, but on the same coin hate the fact that they are now competing with a software company in the hardware arena.  The surface is a beautiful piece of hardware and is making it painfully clear to other OEM’s that they’ve failed to innovate in this space for over two years now.

I’m convinced that PC sales are slumping because nothing new has come out to make a brand new machine look different than the 3-5 year old one already in someones house.  Most people don’t know GHz CPU speeds, generations, DDR2 vs. DDR3 vs. DDR4, etc.  Do something creative and maybe people will decide to buy a new PC or laptop.

Processed Food. Soooo good but soooo bad too!

Yup, I was hungry and had some change in my pocket.  I pulled the trigger on some Pop-Tarts which is probably one of the worst processed sweet foods you can grab these days.  There are 37 ingredients in these things, three of which are sugars; Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Dextrose.

Evil, pure evil.  Real Fruit huh?  Why is it one of the LAST listed ingredients then?
Evil, pure evil. Real Fruit huh? Why is it one of the LAST listed ingredients then?

They were good though and no wonder, they’re designed from the beginning to hit my sweet tooth.  Everyone has a sweet tooth.  Everyone, to be more specific, is hard wired to crave fat, sugar and salt.  During times of “feast”, these key food types packed on weight and made our bodies feel good (assuming unprocessed fat, sugar and salt).  During times of “famine”, our bodies would live off the stores of fat that we packed on during the “feast”.  We’re designed at a core level to process the food we shove in our mouths like this.

Now, enter in the “cheap macro-caloried foods” modern age, and we’re packing on weight at an alarming rate.  Every country that has adopted a “western” diet after never having that type of food available has experienced waist growth.  Conditions such as Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension now exist where they didn’t previously.  The one common thread with all these disturbing trends is the fact that western style processed food is available and being consumed.

Take this for an example.  You sit down to eat 500 calories of vegetables.  It’s a big bowl, huge bowl in fact.  So much so that a normal person would have problems eating the entire serving.  Deciding you don’t want to eat that much, and a burger sounds pretty damn good right now, you roll through the drive-thru at McDonalds and get a BigMac.  That is also around 500 calories, BUT, they are condensed and processed calories that also have 30grams of fat, 800mg of salt and 30grams of sugar in tow.  Most people accustomed to eating this type of food will generally not feel satisfied with just one BigMac because the calories are packed into a smaller package, so there are french fries (more fat, sugar, salt) and of course a soda (50-100g sugar).

Focusing on the sugar alone, which by the way is the ONLY ingredient that doesn’t have a percent daily value on our labels.  Drinking 50g of sugar has an interesting effect on the body.  The sugar goes directly to the liver as its already broken down to its base ingredient.  The liver isn’t designed to handle that much sugar in one shot and calls on the pancreas for some insulin to help get it processed.  Insulin in normal people is generally used to govern the production of fat and fat cells.  So now, you have your system flooded with sugar and insulin and what happens, your body produces fat at an unnatural level.  This process happens every time you drink soda and the reason you don’t puke it all out?  Phosphoric Acid, a natural anti-nausea chemical.  If it wasn’t in there, we would all have stomach aches immediately following consuming 50g of sugar.

I’m tired of processed food.  No, I’m tired of the abundant availability of processed food.  How can a human being hard wired to crave fat, salt and sugar (processed food staples) resist eating it especially when its so easy and cheap to obtain?  Broccoli should NOT be more expensive than Doritos!!

Tech Monday: Tesla’s Crazy Fast Model X SUV

Yes, the rear doors open like falcon wings!!  So bad ass!
Yes, the rear doors open like falcon wings!! So bad ass!

We Drove Tesla’s Crazy Fast Model X SUV

I’m really really really interested in electric motor vehicles!  I don’t think they’re the wave of the future, but rather they’re a transition technology that will give people the option to embrace something other than a gasoline fueled vehicle.  Hybrids are great and achieve good gas mileage, but I know for a fact that we have the technology to let cars get 100 or more miles per gallon with current technology.  The reason we don’t, and I’m sure you know, is that government and the lobby’s that fund them, don’t want their oil based cash cow to go away anytime soon.  No, I won’t get on my soapbox this time.

The Tesla Model X SUV joins the ranks along side the Tesla Model S Sedan.  Both vehicles achive 0-60 in under 4 seconds making them the fastest production sedan and SUV in the world.  The Tesla X is completely electric and can be equipped with one (FWD) and two (AWD) motors making it a versatile SUV for your needs.  The price tag at $130,000 is a bit steep for most people, however Tesla is already working on more reasonably priced cars in the $30-50,000 range.

Going back to my point, this is a transition technology in that it gives people an opportunity to drive something that is completely independent of petroleum.  The United States on average consumes approximately 35 million barrels (55 gallons each) of oil each day with no sign of slowing down anytime in the future.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of products that require petroleum or petroleum based chemicals, so not all of that oil is utilized for gasoline directly.  I’m amazed how Americans have choice in the supermarket, department stores, housing, vehicles, etc. but only ONE choice for the most part at the pump.  Electric cars pose a threat to the oil companies and their ridiculously high profits, so they’re going to fight a fierce and dirty battle over the coming years.

Regardless of this blocking, Elon Musk and his Tesla Motors company are bucking the system and selling cars all over the country.  I live in the Northeast of the country and I see at least 1 Tesla a week, most often more than that.  They’re gaining popularity with others like the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf.  I’m excited to see how this progresses and if I’m in a position to purchase an electric car I most certainly will as I see the premium to own one a small price to pay to never have to purchase gasoline again.

The next revolution is to change coal/oil/gas electricity plants and replace them with Breeder Nuclear Reactors, wind power and solar power stations.  All it will take is people to demand change and the government will have no choice.

Exit, Cold, Enter, Almost a week down

My last day was last Wednesday with my old company.  It was interesting being there telling everybody essentially the same thing.

Yeah, I’m heading out.  Going to an architectural design and infrastructure control software company that is only 30 minutes from home blah blah yadda yadda this that and the other thing…….

I got to the point, where I was just staring at a white screen of an empty inbox, that I was thinking what the hell was I still there for?  It was that point where I shutdown, handed my laptop to the dude next to me and turned in my mobile phone.  It was a crappy iPhone, so I didn’t have an issue getting rid of it.


Last Monday I started to feel the beginnings of a stupid cold.  My luck of course, I would get a stupid cold before my first day with a new company.  You only get once chance for a first impression, so I did my best to make it seem like I wasn’t sick and washed my hands so much they were pruned all day long.  I’m like a little child when I’m sick and no one in my family likes to be around me when I’m sick.

Yeah, pretty much
Yeah, pretty much

Now that its been almost a week, I’m feeling much better.  It’s a good thing too because there is a huge security audit next week that I’m pretty much running.  Nothing like being thrown to the wolves, wearing a meat suit, dipped in gravy and tied to a tree outside the wolves den.  My new manager said “information security is the same everywhere, don’t need to know the systems to protect the data.”  Uh, OK, apparently that’s how its going to be.

Anyway, I’m now almost a week into the new job and I’m really liking the challenge of learning totally new systems while at the same time owning something that I have no clue how to own.  I’m holding my own despite the challenge.  I’m finding it hard to find the time to get online and write, however I think that will subside once the audit is complete next week.

Tech Monday: Fifth Ammendment and the Selfie


Take a selfie, post it up/The next five years….. you’ll be in prison?

In this week’s Tech Monday review, we’re taking a bit of a diversion and focusing on something that technology makes possible and has become a huge privacy concern:  Selfies.  We’re all too aware of selfies, what they are, how they’re taken, etc.  For those of you who don’t know, a selfie is literally taking a picture of yourself specifically or with something behind you of interest.  Here is an interesting selfie that is from the linked article that sparked this post in the first place.

Hella money, yo!
Hella money, yo!

This guy, after getting out of jail, allegedly robbed a bank again.  The same act that got him in jail in the first place.  He decided to take a picture of himself with an impressive wad of money in his mouth.  Yes, I hear you, totally disgusting thinking of where that money has been <laugh>.  Anyway, I looked into this a little deeper and apparently until the authorities saw this selfie, they didn’t have any solid leads as to who robbed the bank.  Much to this guys luck, the selfie of himself and then on the same day with his girlfriend while holding two wads of money, they had their man.

Does this man’s Fifth Amendment rights allow him to not be prosecuted for the bank robbery?

That is the question here.  While I adhere to the Constitution and the rights that it bestows on us, I clearly recognize that pervasive technology did not exist at the time of it being written.  I’m not a supporter of “pure” Constitutional meaning when it comes to dictating the rights of fellow American citizens.  There are hundreds upon hundreds of examples where the literal meaning of the Constitution was used in defense of someone doing or getting caught doing something that crosses the legal line.  In most cases though, its hard to refute the verbiage used and they often go free.

I believe the Constitution needs to be amended sooner rather than later to take into account the technology that is in use today.  It’s impossible to know what the future will hold given that the tech industry changes so quickly, but we can at least cover the basics with some new amendments or laws to protect ourselves and others.  A selfie, being posted to social media without restrictions, should in fact be public record and not protected under the fifth amendment in that you knowingly posted the picture therefore bypassing your Constitutional right to self-incrimination.

While this post is largely based on selfie posting, this vein of thought can apply to anything you share online.  It is debatable that the action of sharing online constitutes your knowledge of the Fifth Amendment and, by sharing, you are accepting the fact that it is no longer a defense for any unlawful action.  I may be oversimplifying this, but why can’t it be that straight forward?  Why does it have to always be “grey”?  The law hasn’t and perhaps never will catch up to technology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take personal action.

I’m a member of the Stop. Think. Connect campaign and have done several presentations at our local schools on this.  The campaign creates awareness of the online world in general and simple things people can do to protect themselves.  There are millions of bad people out there that want your information and taking small and easy steps to protect yourself is essential.  Having had two credit card numbers stolen in the past year (related to the Target, Inc. breach) I’m much more aware of what I share and how I share.  I’m in a much better position now because of that.

If you wanted to learn more, here are the links to the campaign websites.