Shoutout to Join Together by the great Doug Adams

The great AppleScript iTunes master, Doug Adams, created an app a while ago that allows me to join together LP sides so they play in the sequence as originally released on vinyl.

For me, I use this to emulate listening to an LP in iTunes. Sometimes I only want to hear a particular side of an LP that I’m familiar with. I don’t want to shuffle it, I don’t want to hear the whole thing, perhaps I’m listening on my headphones while on my treadmill, or walking around avoiding carjackers or whatever.

In the pre-digital days, you put an album on your turntable, and only one side played. If you wanted to hear the other side, you had to get up and flip it. Or you could listen to something else. 

Producers or artists sequenced their albums accordingly. There were many heated discussions about which track came first on a side, which track closed the side, yadda yadda.

Of course, you can choose which tracks to listen to in whatever order you choose, even on a vinyl record, but it takes more effort.

The genius of Join Together is that once you create the music file, you can just queue that one file.

Here is my procedure, which works in iTunes1

1. Select the files which constitute a side of an LP. For instance, today, I used Glass Eye’s Hello Young Lovers2 – looked up the track order at Discogs.com, and copied the tracks that were on side A to Join Together.

Glass Eye - Hello Young Lovers

2. In Join Together, entered in the “Name” field, “Hello Young Lovers – Side 1”, and also added the phrase “JoinedTogether” to the Grouping field.

3. I personally make every digital file as large as possible so they sound better, so I chose 320kbps as the export.

4. After the merged AAC file is completed, it is added to my iTunes library. 

5. I use the Grouping field so that I can add all of these album sides to a Smart Playlist3, and also exclude it from certain Smart Playlists4

6. Then duplicate this procedure to create Side 2. Voilà!

Double LPs take longer, or triple LPs like Sandinista! give 6 files, or maybe even less

There are some LPs that I always skipped a certain song, this can be recreated in Join Together. For another favorite album of mine, Meat Puppets II, when I used to play it in my college years, I always skipped Side 1 track one, and started on the second song. Sometimes I would play the 1st track later at the end, but I felt strongly that the first song, Split Myself In Two – a punk thrash song – didn’t fit with the mood of the rest of songs. Later on, after some other songs played, it was ok to hear, but not as the first song. So when I created this LP in Join Together, I simply put Split Myself In Two at the end of Side 1. Perfect!

Same with some LPs that the CD version added new songs. They don’t always “fit”, so why play them? For instance, the LP of Sonic Youth’s Sister has less songs than the CD version. Skip ‘em! I felt they changed the mood, so why include them?  

Anyway, Join Together is well worth the $5 Doug Adams charges.

Footnotes:
  1. I haven’t upgraded to a Mac that requires the new version called Music, yet []
  2. which I had on vinyl when I lived in Austin and now own on CD []
  3. I have 10 sides that sync to my iDevices, based on not hearing them in the last few weeks []
  4. specifically, New Rips, i.e., songs that I’ve only listened to less than 5 times []

1984 Business Computer Prop – Commodore PET

Watched the new D.C. comic superhero film, Wonder Woman 1984 last night, and in a tiny scene with an actor without a speaking part, there was this shot of an office, complete with a computer that made me giggle.

A Commodore Pet1, complete with a built in cassette deck, presumedly for programs as the floppy disk technology wasn’t advanced enough. The computing power in my old iPhone is leaps and bounds more powerful than that desktop. I wonder if this prop was working, or if the green text on it was just printed directly on the screen. Who would know?

By the way, my quick, pointless review of Wonder Woman 1984: meh. Gal Gadot is beautiful2, but superhero films are empty calories. I watch many of them, but I agree with Martin Scorsese that the genre is not great art. Also, the golden suit of armor complete with angel wings was eye-rolly. Graded on a curve, Wonder Woman 1984 was a solid B. Better than Shazam!, the last superhero film I sat through, but that’s not high praise…

Footnotes:
  1. probably []
  2. I kept imagining what she was like as a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force []

Odds And Sods

For over 25 years, I have saved various bits of the web on my local computer. Vintage ads, cool graphics, first edition book covers, images of paintings by the old masters and of sculptures, funny cartoons, comic book covers, pulp novel covers, photographs of famous musicians. A version of Pinterest, I guess, but for my own visual education, not the world’s.

For the most part, I have moved all these files into a folder called Odds And Sods, and I use it as the basis for my desktop image on a randomized basis. In the MacOS, one can point the system to a folder full of images, and every 15 minutes (or some other time frame), the desktop image will change to something else in that folder.

However, the files themselves are named haphazardly. Many of them are named something like 2004-1–20-14.38.jpg

Chicago Has Everything

This means the image is hard to search for. On my Family Sunday Zoom™, someone suggested using Reverse Image Search, and while that is an excellent suggestion, I feel it is unpractical for the thousands of images in my Odds and Sods folder.

I wonder if there is an automated solution? A software that does the hard work of uploading and renaming images? Especially since when I tried to reverse image search the above poster from the Fraser Label Company, my browser crashed.

Reverse Image Search crashes my browser

Merits further investigation…

By the way, this is the image that I used on my Family Sunday Zoom™, named on my computer: Screen Shot 2020-09-18 at 5.06.18 PM.png

art history

After I switched browsers1 I was able to use the Google Reverse Image tool on this painting – turns out to be painted by Pieter Bruegel The Elder and is called “The Battle Between Carnival and Lent,” ca 1559. I had read an article in the Smithsonian about him recently, I think because I was looking for images about the plague in the European Middle Ages.

I still want to be able to do this for all the poorly or obscurely named images saved on my computer.

Footnotes:
  1. from Safari to Brave []

Encryption as a Ribbon Around An Apple iPhone

Fonzo Killin Hipsters

Another good post by digital forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski, explaining what the FBI is actually pressuring Apple to provide:

With most non-technical people struggling to make sense of the battle between FBI and Apple, Bill Gates introduced an excellent analogy to explain cryptography to the average non-geek. Gates used the analogy of encryption as a “ribbon around a hard drive”. Good encryption is more like a chastity belt, but since Farook decided to use a weak passcode, I think it’s fair here to call it a ribbon. In any case, lets go with Gates’ ribbon analogy.

Instead of cutting the ribbon, which would be a much simpler task, FBI is ordering Apple to invent a ribbon cutter – a forensic tool capable of cutting the ribbon for FBI, and is promising to use it on just this one phone. In reality, there’s already a line beginning to form behind Comey should he get his way. NY DA Cy Vance has stated that NYC has 175 iPhones waiting to be unlocked (which translates to roughly 1/10th of 1% of all crime in NYC for an entire year). Documents have also shown DOJ has over a dozen more such requests pending. If FBI’s promise of “just this one phone” were authentic, there would be no need to order Apple to make this ribbon cutter; they’d simply tell them to cut the ribbon.

Why has the government waited this long to order such a thing? Because in spite of all of iOS 8’s security, the Chinese invented a ribbon cutter for it called the IP BOX. IP BOX was capable of brute forcing any numeric passcode in iOS 8, and even though it was junky, Chinese-made hardware with zero forensic credibility (and actually called home to servers in China), our government used it widely to break into iOS devices without Apple’s help. The government has really gone dumpster diving for forensic solutions for iOS. This ribbon cutter was used by both law enforcement and anyone with $200 to break into iOS devices, and is a great example of how such a ribbon cutter is often abused for crime.

So here’s the real question: Why is FBI asking for the invention of a ribbon cutter instead of just asking Apple to cut the ribbon? Well the answer to that comes back to precedent. If FBI can order the existence of this ribbon cutter, Cy Vance’s 175 phones will be much easier to push through the courts without the same level of scrutiny as a terrorism case. If FBI were simply asking for Apple to cut the ribbon, all future AWA orders would have to go through the same legal scrutiny in the courts for justification. Getting the ribbon cutter invented for a terrorism case opens the door for such a tool to then be justified by the DA for weaker cases – such as narcotics, computer crimes, or even simply investigations where the government can’t even prove to the courts that a crime was ever committed. Once it’s a tool, just like a Stingray box or a breathalyzer, the court’s leniency in permitting its use increases dramatically.

(click here to continue reading On Ribbons and Ribbon Cutters | Zdziarski’s Blog of Things.)

Now if I could only mandate that all politicians were required to understand the concepts before opening their speaking holes. I know, I know, zero chance…

 

Additionally, there is this angle:

Also consider that the courts aren’t about to force Apple to hack into their own customer products. In fact, the customer purchased these products trusting that the manufacturer wouldn’t – even couldn’t – intentionally compromise them; ever since iOS 8, Apple has marketed these devices as so secure that Apple themselves cannot hack them. For Apple to be forced to backdoor their own devices would invite countless lawsuits from their own customers, betray consumer trust, and likely cost Apple millions, if not billions, in sales depending on how big of a PR nightmare it created. The courts, however, appear to be OK with forcing Apple to write what is being portrayed by the FBI as an innocent, fluffy tool for just this one device.

(click here to continue reading On Ribbons and Ribbon Cutters | Zdziarski’s Blog of Things.)

Acxiom supports Tim Cook’s call for strict U.S. data laws

Apple Store in Soho

So Tim Cook called for better privacy regulation in the US. Maybe he reads this humble blog.1

Tim Cook:

In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours. Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.
This problem is solvable—it isn’t too big, too challenging or too late. Innovation, breakthrough ideas and great features can go hand in hand with user privacy—and they must. Realizing technology’s potential depends on it.

That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

(click here to continue reading Apple CEO Tim Cook: It’s Time for Action on Data Privacy | Time.com.)

 Eye see u Willis

Fast Company adds:

Acxiom, like Mr. Cook, also supports a national privacy law for the U.S., such as GDPR provides for the European Union. Acxiom is actively participating in discussions with U.S. lawmakers as well as industry trade groups to help ensure U.S. consumers receive the kind of transparency, access, and control Acxiom has been providing voluntarily for years,” the company said. “We believe it would be universally beneficial if we were able to work with Apple and other industry leaders to define the best set of laws that maintain the benefits of data in our economy while giving the necessary protections and rights to all people.”

In its statement, Acxiom said it is working with lawmakers to build a “singular, united set of policies across the U.S.” What it does not want, according to the statement, are “multiple and independent state laws” making it onerous to comply.

Of course, it behooves Acxiom to seem amenable to such legislative moves. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the tide is shifting in the U.S., and more people want better safeguards over their data. Cook called for not just stricter data regulations, but a federally controlled data broker database that would make it possible for citizens to know exactly what information the companies have on them and which companies transacted with these data firms. While Acxiom is saying it’s open to new regulation, it’s unclear what exactly the firm will agree to.

(click here to continue reading Acxiom supports Tim Cook’s call for strict U.S. data laws.)

America does need to reign in the multitude of personal data brokers, and the GDPR is a decent model to work off of. 

Footnotes:

  1. kidding, of course []

Tim Cook blasts weaponization of personal data and praises GDPR

Apple Rising
Apple Rising

BBC News reports:

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has demanded a tough new US data protection law, in an unusual speech in Europe.

Referring to the misuse of “deeply personal” data, he said it was being “weaponised against us with military efficiency”.

“We shouldn’t sugar-coat the consequences,” he added. “This is surveillance.”

The strongly-worded speech presented a striking defence of user privacy rights from a tech firm’s chief executive.

Mr Cook also praised the EU’s new data protection regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Apple boss described in some detail what he called the “data industrial complex”, noting that billions of dollars were traded on the basis of people’s “likes and dislikes”, “wishes and fears” or “hopes and dreams” – the kind of data points tracked by tech firms and advertisers.

He warned that the situation “should make us very uncomfortable, it should unsettle us”.

(click here to continue reading Tim Cook blasts ‘weaponisation’ of personal data and praises GDPR – BBC News.)

Kudos to Mr. Cook. As regular readers of this space know, I’ve been jealous of the EU and their fancy data protection policies for a while.

You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film

And this point is key:

And the trade in personal data served only to enrich the companies that collect it, he added.

Not only is our personal data being mined, processed and sold, but we don’t get compensated for it. Sure we get a place to look at photos of grandkids, and Russian-created memes, but at what cost?

High Sierra

Apple Logos
Apple Logos

For reasons, I did not upgrade my Mac to the current OS, High Sierra until this weekend. The new file system1 and its growing pains were the cause of my initial hesitation, but then inertia and procrastination took over. Oh, and that my laptop died after upgrading from the public beta of High Sierra to the Golden Master. Possibly a coincidence, maybe not.

Anyway, over the weekend, I cloned my entire boot disk2 using the essential Mac tool, SuperDuper!, and upgraded. If I wasn’t a digital horder, the clone would have been faster, but I am, so it was not. 

Once I had a complete, bootable copy of my main disk, I installed High Sierra. 

Quoting my request for help at a few Mac sites:

Afterwords, I could not load my Sound Preference panel nor get any sound to display.

Activity Monitor reported:
com.apple.preference.sound.remoteservice (Not Responding)

FWIW, I have a speaker connected to the optical digital port, plus I have an Apple LED Cinema display connected. Both worked fine before this morning.

Where do I begin to troubleshoot this?

I tried a Safe Boot, but same behavior, also logged in as another Admin user, same result. I also deleted com.apple.systempreferences.plist

By process of elimination, and by carefully examining Console logs, I found clues with audio .kext files3. I dug into both ~/Library and Library, removed all .kext and other related files for third party audio apps, including Rogue Amoeba’s Instant On.

Later, I found that Rogue Amoeba had blogged:

 

A small number of our users on High Sierra have experienced a loss of audio on their Macs, with no audio being heard from the computer. This problem can be caused by a conflict between High Sierra and an outdated version of our Instant On audio component (specifically, Instant On version 8.4.3). When Instant On 8.4.3 is installed on High Sierra, MacOS’s audio backend (CoreAudio) can crash, resulting in lost audio.

 

The conflict described only occurs when the outdated Instant On 8.4.3 runs on High Sierra. Well before High Sierra was released, we updated Instant On to fix the incompatibility. Instant On 8.4.4 (and up) has no conflicts on High Sierra, and users who are up-to-date will experience no problems on the new OS. While very few people will be affected by this issue, any number greater than zero is undesirable.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Rogue Amoeba – Under the Microscope » Blog Archive » Fixing an Important High Sierra Incompatibility.)

I then updated Audio Hijack to the latest version, and this fixed everything. Everything!

Yayyyyyy…

Just Passing Time
Just Passing Time

Footnotes:

  1. APFS []
  2. not a bad thing to do anyway on International Check Your Backup Day []
  3. kernel extensions, known also as drivers []

Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too, and Probably Does

Cell Phone Evolution
Cell Phone Evolution

Cell phones are useful for a lot of things, but owning one does have consequences, like the ability for 3rd party organizations or government entities to track your location down to 25-50 feet at any time your phone is connected to a cell tower.

The NYT reports:

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote in a letter this week to the Federal Communications Commission that Securus confirmed that it did not “conduct any review of surveillance requests.” The senator said relying on customers to provide documentation was inadequate. “Wireless carriers have an obligation to take affirmative steps to verify law enforcement requests,” he wrote, adding that Securus did not follow those procedures.

The service provided by Securus reveals a potential weakness in a system that is supposed to protect the private information of millions of cellphone users. With customers’ consent, carriers sell the ability to acquire location data for marketing purposes like providing coupons when someone is near a business, or services like roadside assistance or bank fraud protection. Companies that use the data generally sign contracts pledging to get people’s approval — through a response to a text message, for example, or the push of a button on a menu — or to otherwise use the data legally.

But the contracts between the companies, including Securus, are “the legal equivalent of a pinky promise,” Mr. Wyden wrote. The F.C.C. said it was reviewing the letter.

Courts are split on whether investigators need a warrant based on probable cause to acquire location data. In some states, a warrant is required for any sort of cellphone tracking. In other states, it is needed only if an investigator wants the data in real time. And in others no warrant is needed at all.

Other experts said the law should apply for any communications on a network, not just phone calls. “If the phone companies are giving someone a direct portal into the real-time location data on all of their customers, they should be policing it,” said Laura Moy, the deputy director of the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.

Mr. Wyden, in his letter to the F.C.C., also said that carriers had an obligation to verify whether law enforcement requests were legal. But Securus cuts the carriers out of the review process, because the carriers do not receive the legal documents.

The letter called for an F.C.C. investigation into Securus, as well as the phone companies and their protections of user data. Mr. Wyden also sent letters to the major carriers, seeking audits of their relationships with companies that buy consumer data. Representatives for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon said the companies had received the letters and were investigating.

(click here to continue reading Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too – The New York Times.)

In this particular instance, the 3rd parties selling your location data is called 3Cinteractive and LocationSmart, but there are hundreds more such companies who have built their businesses on turning your location into sellable data, most of which are relatively obscure.

Securus received the data from a mobile marketing company called 3Cinteractive, according to 2013 documents from the Florida Department of Corrections. Securus said that for confidentiality reasons it could not confirm whether that deal was still in place, but a spokesman for Mr. Wyden said the company told the senator’s office it was. In turn, 3Cinteractive got its data from LocationSmart, a firm known as a location aggregator, according to documents from those companies. LocationSmart buys access to the data from all the major American carriers, it says.

How does it work?

CBS News:

 “Envision a cell site,” says Allen (a typical tower appears in the photo above). “They’re triangular, and each side has about 120 degrees of sweep.” Every time a signal is transmitted to a nearby phone, says Allen, there is a round-trip delay to the mobile device and back. By using all three sides of the triangle to “talk” to the mobile device, the tower can triangulate which edge of the base station is closest to the device. “Typically the accuracy return varies,” says Allen. “In urban settings, it can be accurate down to several blocks; in suburban settings, several hundred meters.”

“We can locate any subscriber,” says Allen, “and companies want all those subscribers to be addressable,” or discoverable. Normally, this requires passing through some privacy gateways, says Allen. “The end user must opt in through a Web portal or SMS, or an app like Foursquare,” he says, per “universal” CTIA and MMA guidelines, and carriers’ own privacy protocol.

But with enterprise services, there’s a catch. “In a workplace scenario, the corporate entity has the right to opt-in those devices,” says Allen. “The [employee] is typically notified, but the opt-in is up to the employer.”

In other words: if your employer owns your phone, tablet or 3G-enabled computer, they’re entitled to own your location, too.

(click here to continue reading iPhones as Homing Beacons: How AT&T and Verizon Help Companies Track Employees – CBS News.)

Apple Rising
Apple Rising

Even Apple, a corporation that prides itself on not selling users data as much as their competitors, has acknowledged that users data has sometimes been sold.

9To5 Mac reports:

Over the last few days, Apple has seemingly started cracking down on applications that share location data with third-parties. In such cases, Apple has been removing the application in question and informing developers that their app violates two parts of the App Store Review Guidelines…

Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip Thus far, we’ve seen several cases of Apple cracking down on these types of applications. The company informs developers via email that “upon re-evaluation,” their application is in violation of sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which pertain to transmitting user location data and user awareness of data collection.

Legal – 5.1.1 and Legal 5.1.2

The app transmits user location data to third parties without explicit consent from the user and for unapproved purposes.

Apple explains that developers must remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation before their app can be resubmitted to the App Store

(click here to continue reading Apple cracking down on applications that send location data to third-parties | 9to5Mac.)

Apple is developing a TV show based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series

Self Portrait in Sci Fi Museum Window
Self Portrait in Sci-Fi Museum Window

Andrew Liptak of The Verge writes that Apple has optioned a tv show based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series:

Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed science fiction Foundation trilogy might finally reach television. Deadline reports that Apple is putting an adaptation into development, adding to the company’s growing list of original content offerings as it seeks to compete with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, and Disney.

The show comes from David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel) and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and the upcoming Snowpiercer TV show), who began work on the project last year with Skydance Television. The studio also worked on this year’s Altered Carbon. If the project moves forward, it’ll be a huge property for Apple: the novels are incredibly popular reads, and have served as a (forgive me) foundational basis for a number of other science fiction stories, such as Star Wars. Deadline notes that Apple is developing the project with an eye toward a straight-to-series order.

Asimov’s Foundation first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction as a series of short stories between 1942 and 1950. Although he lived reading and writing historical fiction, the research required for writing real historical fiction was impractical, he wrote in his biography, I, Asimov. Instead, he decided to make up his own: a “historical novel of the future, a science fiction story that read like a historical novel.” After reading Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he realized that he could do something similar: tell the story of the rise and fall of a galactic civilization.

He took the idea to his editor at the magazine, John W. Campbell Jr, who liked the idea, and conceived of it as a “long, open-ended saga of the fall of the Galactic Empire, the Dark Ages that followed, and the eventual rise of a Second Galactic Empire.” Asimov eventually collected the resulting five short stories into Foundation, which told the story of a mathematician and psychologist who predicts the fall of the 12,000-year-old Galactic Empire, and creates a repository of knowledge called the Encyclopedia Galactica, designed to stave off the coming dark ages.

(click here to continue reading Apple is developing a TV show based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series – The Verge.)

count me in as interested. It has been a long time since I’ve read that series, though I remember I did like it a lot. 

Originally, HBO was interested, I guess that didn’t work out.

Jeff Sneider of The Wrap reported in 2016:

HBO and Warner Bros. TV are teaming to produce a series based on Isaac Asimov‘s “Foundation” trilogy that will be written and produced by “Interstellar” writer Jonathan Nolan, multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap.

Nolan, who is already working with HBO on “Westworld,” has been quietly developing the project for the last several months. He recently tipped his hand to Indiewire, which asked him, ‘what’s the one piece of science fiction you truly love that people don’t know enough about?’

“Well, I fucking love the ‘Foundation’ novels by Isaac Asimov. They’re certainly not [unknown], but that’s a set of books I think everyone would benefit from reading. That’s a set of books where the influence they have is just fucking massive. They have many imitators and many have been inspired by them, but go back and read those, and there are some ideas in those that’ll set your fucking hair on fire,” Nolan told Indiewire.

 

(click here to continue reading ‘Interstellar’s’ Jonah Nolan Developing ‘Foundation’ Series for HBO, WBTV (Exclusive).)

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions While Facebook Winked

Revolution of The Innocent
Revolution of The Innocent…

Cambridge Analytica, remember them?

All the more reason to cut back on the amount of time you spend at Facebook, and all the more reason to give Facebook and similar data-mining corporations fake information whenever possible:

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier on Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties,” Mr. Grewal said.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions – The New York Times.)

Smile Through It All
Smile Through It All

Yeah, Facebook is going to “take action”. How? By admitting that they accumulate and sell way more personal information than their users know? By deleting this information? What exactly is the action that Facebook is going to do that will miraculously solve their bad PR?

The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in the tech giant’s biggest ever data breach, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

Christopher Wylie, who worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals.

The New York Times is reporting that copies of the data harvested for Cambridge Analytica could still be found online; its reporting team had viewed some of the raw data.

(click here to continue reading Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach | News | The Guardian.)

Alarmist
Alarmist

From the Facebook statement:

In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.

Like all app developers, Kogan requested and gained access to information from people after they chose to download his app. His app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” offered a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists.” Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app. In so doing, they gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.

Although Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time, he did not subsequently abide by our rules. By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies. When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.

(click here to continue reading Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook | Facebook Newsroom.)

Since 2015, Robert Mercer’s team of anti-liberal hordes have been siphoning personal information from Facebook, and Facebook only suspended them yesterday. Who else is doing similar things? I bet the list is long, longer than I can even imagine. But Facebook is content to take the cash…and get Trump elected.

Embarrass
Embarrass

Bloomberg reported a while ago

Facebook Inc.’s platform was a crucial messaging tool for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to the campaign’s digital director — who told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he hand-picked pro-Trump “embeds” from the company to help him use the platform in targeted ways.

“Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won,” Brad Parscale told “60 Minutes,” according to an excerpt of an interview that the program intends to air Sunday. The social-media platform was particularly valuable because it allows for targeted messaging, Parscale said, according to the excerpt.

Facebook’s employees showed up for work at his office multiple days a week to provide guidance on how to best use the company’s services, Parscale said in the interview excerpt. “I wanted people who supported Donald Trump,” he said — and he questioned the workers about their political views.

(click here to continue reading Facebook ‘Embeds’ Helped Trump Win, Digital Director Says – Bloomberg.)

Talking Points Memo and Intelligent Tracking Prevention

Prevent Cross-Site Tracking

I’ve been fascinated by the discussion about Apple’s new anti-3rd party cookie moves, especially in Mac OS X High Sierra and in iOS 11. The digital advertising companies are freaking out of course, but I don’t have much sympathy for their position.

 

The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will “sabotage” the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari.

 

Six trade groups—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and two others—say they’re “deeply concerned” with Apple’s plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser – Adweek.)

Apple Coffee Thermos

Apple answered:

Apple responded to that criticism this afternoon by fully explaining what they are doing for the consumer and standing up for themselves.

“Apple believes that people have a right to privacy – Safari was the first browser to block third party cookies by default and Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop.

“Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private. The feature does not block ads or interfere with legitimate tracking on the sites that people actually click on and visit. Cookies for sites that you interact with function as designed, and ads placed by web publishers will appear normally,” the company said.

 

(click here to continue reading Apple responds to ad group’s criticism of Safari cookie blocking.)

Apple Logos

Josh Marshall, the publisher of the long-time political blog, Talking Points Memo, has some thoughts about Intelligent Tracking Prevention, and thinks, in general, it will be good for sites like his. 

Here’s where it gets especially interesting to any publisher. We rely on tracking in as much as tracking is now pervasive on the ads running on basically every website, including TPM. But really tracking has been a disaster for publishers, especially premium publishers.

Here’s why.

I’ll use TPM as an example. But it’s only for the purposes of illustration. The same applies to countless other publications, particularly quality publications as opposed to content farms. TPM has an affluent, highly educated, generally progressive audience. They also tend to be political influencers. Our readers also have a strong brand affinity with TPM. Our core audience visits day after day. All of those attributes make our audience very desirable for many advertisers. So great, even though we’re small, advertisers want access to that kind of audience. So we can command good rates.

Tracking has shifted that equation dramatically. (And again, TPM is just here as illustration. This is an industry-wide phenomenon.) Let’s say we take the whole core TPM audience, this set number of people. They have these attributes I mentioned above. Tracking now allows the ad tech industry to follow those people around the web and advertise to them where they choose. So an advertiser can identify “TPM Readers” and then advertise to them at other sites that aren’t TPM. Or they can find a group that has the attributes that I describe above and track them around the web regardless of which site they’re on. You don’t have any reason to care about that. But we care about it a lot because it basically takes from us any market power we have. Tracking means almost all publishers are being disintermediated in this way. This is one big reason the platforms and the data vendors are scarfing up all the new revenue.

So in many ways, disruptions in tracking are good for publishers. Actually basically in all ways it’s good. In this way, we have a vaguely common interest with Apple since we see our business future as tied to paid services, memberships, etc. Apple does too. In practice, the little players have the least ability and resources to protect themselves during periods of market chaos. But in theory at least, if Apple’s self-interest led it to disrupt the cookie architecture and wreak havoc in Google’s business model, that would likely be good for publishers.

(click here to continue reading What’s Apple Up To? – Talking Points Memo.)

A visit to TPM.com this morning brought up sixteen 3rd-party cookies as reported by Ghostery. Cookies from Amazon, Google, Facebook, as well as sites I’d never heard of, like Adsnative, Krux Digital, RevContent and others. /shrug…

Join Together – A New-To-Me App to Recreate Spinning Vinyl Sides

The Replacements - Tim
The Replacements – Tim, on vinyl.

Yesterday I realized that iTunes 12.x doesn’t have an option to merge two or more music tracks into one. I thought iTunes used to have this functionality, but perhaps I was mistaken. I could have dug out my original CD, and merged the songs that way, but after briefly Googling, I discovered that Applescript master and long-time iTunes expert Doug Adams has built a (Mac only) app that performs this very task. Cool!

Join Together will create and export a single AAC or ALAC audio file from the audio data of tracks dragged from iTunes or files dragged from the Finder, leaving the original source tracks and files intact.

(click here to continue reading Doug’s Apps for iTunes – Join Together – v7.7.3 – Official Download Site.)

Or as Doug added on Twitter: 

Quality LP sides have their own internal logic & mood, as sequenced by the artist/producers. Each LP side can even have its own character. Breaking up albums into single songs in iTunes defeats the artist’s intent. I realized there were many albums that I owned that would benefit from being joined together like this. Mostly albums from before CDs became the default medium, I’m guessing in the early 1990s.1

An LP that has been played many, many times embeds itself in your brain as it is sequenced. Of course, thinking back, I often did skip a particular track on some albums if I wasn’t otherwise occupied, but usually I would play an entire LP side, and then maybe not even flip it over, but move on to the next LP. 

Wu-Tang Clan’s debut LP
Wu-Tang Clan’s debut LP

Albums that I loved on vinyl enough to replace on CD, aka Desert Island Discs; LPs like Highway 61 Revisited, or London Calling, or Kind of Blue, Electric Ladyland, individual songs that should be heard together in sequence like the Grateful Dead’s China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider, or even the short songs that make up the second side of Abbey Road; these are ideal candidates for Join Together.

Whenever I played the Meat Puppets 2, I always played the second side first, as I thought the first song on the first side2 was too jarring, and unlike the rest of the LP. When I use Join Together, I’m going to recreate that playing experience. I don’t need to hear Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” more than once or twice a year, so I’ll make a version of Led Zeppelin IV -Side 1 without Stairway3. Same with the Velvet Underground & Nico: how many times a year do I want to hear “European Son”? 

Big Star - first album
Big Star – first album

Footnotes:

  1. I was a late hold-out, and didn’t purchase my first CD until I couldn’t find a vinyl version of Sonic Youth’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star []
  2.  “Split Myself in Two” []
  3. I often would pick the needle up after hearing the first few notes []

Apple, in Seeming Jab at Spotify, Proposes Simpler Songwriting Royalties

The Music Kept Playing
The Music Kept Playing

More skirmishes in the continuing battle between corporate behemoths…

Apple, in a government filing on Friday, proposed simplifying the highly complex way that songwriting royalties are paid when it comes to on-demand streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal.

According to Apple’s proposal, made with the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of federal judges who oversee rates in the United States, streaming services should pay 9.1 cents in songwriting royalties for every 100 times a song is played. This formula would replace the long passages of federal rules for streaming rates, which often leave musicians bewildered about just how the money flows in streaming music.

Apple’s filing was made as part of a proceeding by the Copyright Royalty Board to set statutory rates for downloads and interactive streaming services from 2018 to 2022. Spotify, Google, Pandora, Amazon and the Recording Industry Association of America were all expected to file their proposals by Friday, but the panel has not yet made the filings public.

Although the bulk of Apple’s proposal with the Copyright Royalty Board is confined to three brief paragraphs, it would have wide implications if it were adopted. Songwriting rates paid by interactive streaming services like Spotify are now governed by a byzantine system that includes a division between what are known as mechanical and performance royalties for the same songs. Apple’s proposal would cover all songwriting royalties with the same rate. (Royalties for recordings are accounted separately.)

What Apple does not say in its filing, however, is that the statutory rates it proposes would not apply to its own services. When the company introduced Apple Music last year, it struck direct deals with music publishers at rates that are slightly higher than usual.

(click here to continue reading Apple, in Seeming Jab at Spotify, Proposes Simpler Songwriting Royalties – The New York Times.)

Phil Entering Around Again Records
Phil Entering Around Again Records

Streaming services like Spotify, Pandora et al, do seem to rely upon underpaying artists, or figuring out schemes to avoid payment at all. If musicians cannot make a living creating music, there won’t be any, other than vanity projects, and top 40 bullshit. But then I’m a curmudgeon who still purchases all my music in hard-copy and don’t subscribe to any of these services.

Apple GovtOS and the FBI continued

Apple CEO Tim Cook has spent a lot of effort keeping this case in the public, even giving an interview with Time Magazine’s Lev Grossman, which includes statements like:

Apple Coffee Thermos

Inside Apple this idea is nicknamed, not affectionately, GovtOS. “We had long discussions about that internally, when they asked us,” Cook says. “Lots of people were involved. It wasn’t just me sitting in a room somewhere deciding that way, it was a labored decision. We thought about all the things you would think we would think about.” The decision, when it came, was no.

Cook actually thought that might be the end of it. It wasn’t: on Feb. 16 the FBI both escalated and went public, obtaining a court order from a federal judge that required Apple to create GovtOS under something called the All Writs Act. Cook took deep, Alabaman umbrage at the manner in which he learned about the court order, which was in the press: “If I’m working with you for several months on things, if I have a relationship with you, and I decide one day I’m going to sue you, I’m a country boy at the end of the day: I’m going to pick up the phone and tell you I’m going to sue you.”

It also wasn’t lost on Cook that the FBI chose not to file the order under seal: if Apple wasn’t going to help with a case of domestic terrorism, the FBI wanted Apple to do it under the full glare of public opinion.

The spectacle of Apple, the most admired company in the world, refusing to aid the FBI in a domestic-terrorism investigation has inflamed public passions in a way that, it’s safe to say, nothing involving encryption algorithms and the All Writs Act ever has before. Donald Trump asked, “Who do they think they are?” and called for a boycott of Apple. A Florida sheriff said he would “lock the rascal up,” the rascal meaning Cook. Even President Obama, whose relations with the technorati of Silicon Valley have historically been warm, spoke out about the issue at South by Southwest: “It’s fetishizing our phones above every other value. And that can’t be the right answer.”

As against that, Apple has been smothered in amicus briefs from technology firms supporting its position, including AT&T, Airbnb, eBay, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Square, Twitter, Cisco, Snapchat, WhatsApp and every one of its biggest, bitterest rivals: Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke out in Apple’s defense. So did retired general Michael Hayden, former head of both the NSA and the CIA. The notoriously hawkish Senator Lindsey Graham, who started out lambasting Apple, switched sides after a briefing on the matter. Steve Dowling, Apple’s vice president of communications, showed me a check for $100 that somebody sent to support the world’s most valuable technology company in its legal fight. (Apple didn’t cash it.)

(click here to continue reading Inside Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Fight With the FBI | TIME.)

The case seems weak, for a number of reasons (encryption is not bound by political boundaries; Apple shouldn’t be compelled to work for the government especially when they have done nothing wrong; the laws referred to as CALEA would seem to forbid the FBI’s approach; we don’t live in a police state; and so on), but you can’t assume that the judge in the case can be swayed by logic. I’d rather Tim Cook and Apple engineers were spending time improving iTunes, and fixing bugs in Mac OS X El Capitan instead of fighting government overreach, but you can’t control the universe, only react to its whims.

Only the Thought is Dark
Only the Thought is Dark

I want to note another point, as discussed extensively by Jonathan Zdziarski: the idea of a warrant-proof zone. Doctor-patient privilege, diplomatic pouches, married couples, journalistic sources, these and other areas are also “dark” in the FBI parlance. Even in court, even in cases that inflame the public’s interest, even then, a lawyer cannot be compelled to reveal what their client told them. 

There are other examples that could be mentioned, but the point is that our country recognizes many laws and international treaties that support the concept of warrant proof as a valid concept. It is not only well within Apple’s rights to produce a product that happens to be warrant-proof, but it’s actually Apple’s responsibility to create a product that’s capable of enforcing the highest level of security permitted by our country’s laws… not the lowest. Apple is well within not only their rights, but in practices that support and place appropriate locks consistent with the levels of privacy our country recognizes. These products protect everyone – diplomats, doctors, journalists, as well as all of us. Of course they should be this secure. If our own country recognizes warrant proof as a thing, of course our technology should too.

We, as everyday Americans, should also encourage the idea of warrant proof places. The DOJ believes, quite erroneously, that the Fourth Amendment gives them the right to any evidence or information they desire with a warrant. The Bill of Rights did not grant rights to the government; it protected the rights of Americans from the overreach that was expected to come from government. Our most intimate thoughts, our private conversations, our ideas, our -intent- are all things our phone tracks. These are concepts that must remain private (if we choose to protect them) for any functioning free society. In today’s technological landscape, we are no longer giving up just our current or future activity under warrant, but for the first time in history, making potentially years of our life retroactively searchable by law enforcement. Things are recorded in ways today that no one would have imagined, even when CALEA was passed. The capability that DOJ is asserting is that our very lives and identities – going back across years – are subject to search. The Constitution never permitted this.

The bottom line is this: Our country actually recognizes warrant proof data, and Apple has every right and ethical obligation to recognize it in the design of their products. As Americans, we should be demanding our thoughts, conversations, and identities be protected with the highest level of security. This isn’t just about credit cards.

(click here to continue reading Apple Should Own The Term “Warrant Proof” | Zdziarski’s Blog of Things.)

Encryption as a Ribbon Around An Apple iPhone

Fonzo Killin Hipsters

By the way, I forgot to link to another good post by digital forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski, explaining what the FBI is actually pressuring Apple to provide:

With most non-technical people struggling to make sense of the battle between FBI and Apple, Bill Gates introduced an excellent analogy to explain cryptography to the average non-geek. Gates used the analogy of encryption as a “ribbon around a hard drive”. Good encryption is more like a chastity belt, but since Farook decided to use a weak passcode, I think it’s fair here to call it a ribbon. In any case, lets go with Gates’ ribbon analogy.

Instead of cutting the ribbon, which would be a much simpler task, FBI is ordering Apple to invent a ribbon cutter – a forensic tool capable of cutting the ribbon for FBI, and is promising to use it on just this one phone. In reality, there’s already a line beginning to form behind Comey should he get his way. NY DA Cy Vance has stated that NYC has 175 iPhones waiting to be unlocked (which translates to roughly 1/10th of 1% of all crime in NYC for an entire year). Documents have also shown DOJ has over a dozen more such requests pending. If FBI’s promise of “just this one phone” were authentic, there would be no need to order Apple to make this ribbon cutter; they’d simply tell them to cut the ribbon.

Why has the government waited this long to order such a thing? Because in spite of all of iOS 8’s security, the Chinese invented a ribbon cutter for it called the IP BOX. IP BOX was capable of brute forcing any numeric passcode in iOS 8, and even though it was junky, Chinese-made hardware with zero forensic credibility (and actually called home to servers in China), our government used it widely to break into iOS devices without Apple’s help. The government has really gone dumpster diving for forensic solutions for iOS. This ribbon cutter was used by both law enforcement and anyone with $200 to break into iOS devices, and is a great example of how such a ribbon cutter is often abused for crime.

So here’s the real question: Why is FBI asking for the invention of a ribbon cutter instead of just asking Apple to cut the ribbon? Well the answer to that comes back to precedent. If FBI can order the existence of this ribbon cutter, Cy Vance’s 175 phones will be much easier to push through the courts without the same level of scrutiny as a terrorism case. If FBI were simply asking for Apple to cut the ribbon, all future AWA orders would have to go through the same legal scrutiny in the courts for justification. Getting the ribbon cutter invented for a terrorism case opens the door for such a tool to then be justified by the DA for weaker cases – such as narcotics, computer crimes, or even simply investigations where the government can’t even prove to the courts that a crime was ever committed. Once it’s a tool, just like a Stingray box or a breathalyzer, the court’s leniency in permitting its use increases dramatically.

(click here to continue reading On Ribbons and Ribbon Cutters | Zdziarski’s Blog of Things.)

Now if I could only mandate that all politicians were required to understand the concepts before opening their speaking holes. I know, I know, zero chance…

https://i1.wp.com/farm2.staticflickr.com/1503/24422344743_076085f59b_z.jpg?resize=640%2C640&ssl=1
Additionally, there is this angle:

Also consider that the courts aren’t about to force Apple to hack into their own customer products. In fact, the customer purchased these products trusting that the manufacturer wouldn’t – even couldn’t – intentionally compromise them; ever since iOS 8, Apple has marketed these devices as so secure that Apple themselves cannot hack them. For Apple to be forced to backdoor their own devices would invite countless lawsuits from their own customers, betray consumer trust, and likely cost Apple millions, if not billions, in sales depending on how big of a PR nightmare it created. The courts, however, appear to be OK with forcing Apple to write what is being portrayed by the FBI as an innocent, fluffy tool for just this one device.

(click here to continue reading On Ribbons and Ribbon Cutters | Zdziarski’s Blog of Things.)