B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘technology’ tag

Google Exposed User Data, Feared Repercussions of Disclosing to Public

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Expanding the Parameters
Expanding the Parameters

WSJ:

Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica.

(click here to continue reading Google Exposed User Data, Feared Repercussions of Disclosing to Public – WSJ.)

The cover-up is always worse. Google could have admitted to this during some Trump-Tweet-Tempest, and nobody would have paid much attention. 

Written by Seth Anderson

October 8th, 2018 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

Russia’s Fancy Bear Hackers Have a Clever New Trick – A UEFI rootkit Called LoJax

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Computer Consultants

WIRED:

THE FANCY BEAR hacking group has plenty of tools at its disposal, as evidenced by its attacks against the Democratic National Committee, the Pyeongchang Olympics, and plenty more. But cybersecurity firm ESET appears to have caught the elite Russian team using a technique so advanced, it hadn’t ever been seen in the wild until now.

ESET found what’s known as a UEFI rootkit, which is a way to gain persistent access to a computer that’s hard to detect and even harder to clean up, on an unidentified victim’s machine.

If “LoJax” sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because you might recall LoJack—formerly known as Computrace—security software that lets you track your laptop in the event of theft. LoJack turns out to be potent stuff. It sits in a computer’s firmware, making regular calls back to a server to announce its location. Crucially, that also means you can’t get rid of it by reinstalling your operating system or swapping in a new hard drive.

Fancy Bear figured out how to manipulate code from a decade-old version of LoJack to get it to call back not to the intended server, but one manned instead by Russian spies. That’s LoJax. And it’s a devil to get rid of.

“Whenever a computer infected with a UEFI malware boots, it will place the LoJax agent on the Windows file system, so that when Windows boots, it’s already infected with the LoJax agent. Even if you clean LoJax from Windows, as soon as you reboot, the UEFI implant will reinfect Windows,” says Alexis Dorais-Joncas, ESET’s security intelligence team lead.

It is possible to remove LoJax from your system entirely, but doing so requires serious technical skills. “You can’t just restart. You can’t just reinstall your hard drive. You can’t replace your hard drive. You actually have to flash your firmware,” says Richard Hummel, manager of threat intelligence for NetScou

(click here to continue reading Russia’s Elite Fancy Bear Hackers Have a Clever New Trick | WIRED.)

Great. Too bad the US Government doesn’t have a Cyber Czar anymore.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 28th, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Death to The Bullshit Web

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Weaving Your Spells
Weaving Your Spells…

Nick Heer writes about a topic near and dear to our brains, albeit from the web developer side: why do websites load so slowly? And why is our personal data being sold without our informed consent?

The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.

But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.

Take that CNN article, for example. Here’s what it contained when I loaded it:

Eleven web fonts, totalling 414 KB

Four stylesheets, totalling 315 KB

Twenty frames

Twenty-nine XML HTTP requests, totalling about 500 KB

Approximately one hundred scripts, totalling several megabytes — though it’s hard to pin down the number and actual size because some of the scripts are “beacons” that load after the page is technically finished downloading.

The vast majority of these resources are not directly related to the information on the page, and I’m including advertising. Many of the scripts that were loaded are purely for surveillance purposes: self-hosted analytics, of which there are several examples; various third-party analytics firms like Salesforce, Chartbeat, and Optimizely; and social network sharing widgets. They churn through CPU cycles and cause my six-year-old computer to cry out in pain and fury. I’m not asking much of it; I have opened a text-based document on the web.

An actual solution recognizes that this bullshit is inexcusable. It is making the web a cumulatively awful place to be. Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.

They shouldn’t have to. Better choices should be made by web developers to not ship this bullshit in the first place. We wouldn’t tolerate such intrusive behaviour more generally; why are we expected to find it acceptable on the web?

An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.

Death to the bullshit web.

(click here to continue reading The Bullshit Web — Pixel Envy.)

All that “surveillance” stuff and related files are an abomination, and pleases no-one. I’ve heard anecdotal reports that even marketing savvy companies don’t frequently use all the data that is collected on their behalf. So who wants it? Unclear to me. I guess the third party data collection industry is happy to vacuum up this data because they can subsequently re-sell our information to the highest bidder, but that’s not a good enough reason to continue making web pages cumbersome.

And as I’ve blabbed about repeatedly, I swear by the script-blocking capabilities of Ghostery, but that is a half-measure, and doesn’t apply to the web-surfing of the vast majority of the populace.

You should read Mr. Heer’s entire post, it is worthy of your time…

 

Un Deletable Cookies  Safari
Un-Deletable Cookies – Safari

Written by Seth Anderson

August 2nd, 2018 at 8:39 am

Advertisers Are Salivating About 5G-Fueled Marketing

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Calumet 5 6969
Calumet 5-6969

Adweek reports:

Kevin Crull, chief operating officer at Sprint, envisions a world in the coming years where his phone is able to automatically book an Uber ride from an airport based on a calendar reminder that he created about an upcoming flight. The calendar reminder feeds real-time travel stats to his device and then recommends a meal for his Uber driver to pick up on the way based on what items he has previously ordered through Uber Eats.

“I can see in the future where it brings in information from other devices and third-party services to get much more predictive and successful in how we’re targeting people,” he said.

Crull’s futuristic scenario isn’t just wishful (or hungry) thinking. It’s the product of 5G technology that constantly pings data back and forth between smartphones and connected devices, making it possible for devices to essentially predict what actions a consumer takes. At its core, the widespread rollout of 5G promises to increase connection speeds by up to 10 times while cutting latency by a factor of five, he said. Videos—and commercials—powered with 5G will stream faster and look crisper on smartphones. And with more data flowing quickly between networks and devices, the so-called Internet of Things will take a bit more shape for marketers who have long strived to ping a user’s smartphone with a relevant message as he passes a billboard or store.

(click here to continue reading With Faster Speeds and Connections, Brands Are Planning for 5G-Fueled Marketing – Adweek.)

Here’s the nub: 5 G as a technology is not necessarily better for average users, but it sure is for the industries that want to monetize your information and sell it, and you, to corporations.

Jogging After the End of Times
Jogging After the End of Times

For instance: Augmented Reality, and self-driving cars – with television screens…

By the middle of next year, Sprint plans to have 5G up and running “in many markets,” while AT&T plans to equip 12 markets including Atlanta and Dallas with mobile 5G this year. T-Mobile says that it’s on track to have 5G rolled out to 30 cities such as New York and Los Angeles in 2018, and Verizon is also enabling five markets including Sacramento, Calif., with the technology.

For advertisers, 5G opens up new video opportunities with formats like virtual reality and interactive clips that require hefty amounts of data to view today. Sprint’s Crull said he also expects for advertisers to play with dynamic creative and video lengths that are customized to users depending on how much content they typically watch on their phone.

And as Apple, Facebook and Snapchat invest in augmented reality, expect for 5G to open up more detailed AR experiences for marketers to experiment with, said Malmad.

“In a world of 5G, you aren’t going to be constrained by [bandwidth]—you can showcase whatever you like and have a rich, deep experience, so I do believe that augmented reality will benefit greatly from 5G,” he said.

Malmad said that 5G will also make it easier for marketers to target ads to connected cars, particularly once autonomous driving becomes more mainstream. For example, self-driving cars are expected to free up people’s time and attention so that they can watch TV or stream programs, meaning that automakers may build screens into seats.

No wonder telecoms are forcing municipalities to install 5G towers, whether or not communities want them, with the help of the Republican FCC chairman, Ajit Pai.

Come Rain Come Shine
Come Rain Come Shine

The NYT reported a few months ago:

The future of cellular service is coming to a neighborhood near you.

But who gets to decide when, where and how it gets delivered is still a heated fight.

The new technology, known as 5G, delivers wireless internet at far faster speeds than existing cellular connections. But it also requires different hardware to deliver the signals.

Instead of relying on large towers placed far apart, the new signals will come from smaller equipment placed an average of 500 feet apart in neighborhoods and business districts. Much of the equipment will be on streetlights or utility poles, often accompanied by containers the size of refrigerators on the ground. More than 300,000 cell stations now provide wireless connections, and 5G will bring hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — more.

The prospect of their installation has many communities and their officials, from Woodbury, N.Y., to Olympia, Wash., insisting that local governments control the placement and look of the new equipment. They say that the cell stations could clutter neighborhoods with eyesores and cost the communities a lot of potential revenue. “Residents across the country are just now beginning to understand the harms that hasty and insensitive small cell deployments can inflict on their communities,” said Jim Baller, the president of Baller Stokes & Lide, a law firm in Washington that represents municipalities on communications issues.

But telecommunications companies — hoping to cash in on what is predicted to be $250 billion in annual service revenue from 5G by 2025 — are pushing to build the system as quickly and cheaply as possible. And they have the federal government on their side.

(click here to continue reading 5G Cell Service Is Coming. Who Decides Where It Goes? – The New York Times.)

City of Lights
City of Lights

Some states have preemptively stopped municipalities from having a say in the matter, or in receiving fees for these 5G poles:

And the F.C.C., under the leadership of Ajit Pai, its Republican chairman, has strongly encouraged weakening regulations to accelerate the deployment of new 5G technology — including reducing the role of local governments.

Texas cities can’t negotiate rates. Last year, the State Legislature passed a law pushed by AT&T that allows cities to charge carriers no more than $250 per pole each year. Before the law, cities often charged $1,500 to $2,500 a year per pole, and the change will cost Texas cities as much as $1 billion over eight years, the Texas Municipal League estimated.

A group of Texas cities led by the city of McAllen, near the Mexico border, filed a lawsuit last year against the state, arguing that the new cell-site law violated the state Constitution, which prohibits the Legislature from forcing cities to grant something of value to corporations.

Talk about Big Government…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 9:25 am

Posted in Advertising,government

Tagged with , , ,

Boeing hit by WannaCry virus

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Boeing Logo
Boeing…

Ru-oh.

The Seattle Times reports:

Boeing was hit Wednesday by the WannaCry computer virus, initally raising fears within the company that it could cripple some vital airplane production equipment.

Mike VanderWel, chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, sent out an alarming memo calling for “All hands on deck.”

“It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,” VanderWel wrote, adding his concern that the virus could hit equipment used in functional tests of airplanes ready to roll out and potentially “spread to airplane software.

(click here to continue reading Boeing hit by WannaCry virus, but says no impact on jet production | The Seattle Times.)

Couple that with reports that a trade war with China is going to hit Boeing hard, not a good time to be Boeing. 

Golden Plowshares
Golden Plowshares

The NYT reported:

 

Much of the Dow’s underperformance can be traced to the aircraft maker’s stock.

 

The Trump administration’s trade policies have hit Boeing, the most-heavily weighted stock in the Dow, particularly hard.

 

Aluminum makes up about 80 percent of the weight of most commercial aircrafts, according to Brooke Sutherland and David Fickling of Gadfly. That means tariffs on imported aluminum would likely raise Boeing’s costs more than its competitors. Boeing also views China, the main target of the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policies, as an important growth market. The country is set to overtake the U.S. as the biggest aviation market by 2022, Ms. Sutherland and Mr. Fickling write.

 

China could target Boeing if the country decides to retaliate against the U.S.

 

 

(click here to continue reading What’s Next for Stocks After the China Tariffs: DealBook Briefing – The New York Times.)

Drowning in Small Talk  Kodalith
Drowning in Small Talk – Kodalith

The Motley Fool writes:

 

On Wednesday, Boeing hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at a tour of its widebody commercial plane factory in Everett, Wash. Concurrent with the visit, Boeing announced that it has finalized agreements to sell 300 aircraft to various Chinese customers — and to open its first factory in China to complete assembly of 737 airliners in particular.

 

The planes Regarding the airplane sales, Boeing announced the finalization of orders for $38 billion worth of airplanes (at list prices), including:

 

50 widebody jets, of models not named, to be bought by Chinese airlines (also unnamed). 190 single-aisle 737s to be bought by the same group of airlines. 60 more 737s to be bought by the leasing arm of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and by CDB Leasing. Boeing did not clarify how many, if any, of said 300 airplanes may have already been entered into its order book under previously announced “firm orders.” Tellingly though, Boeing’s latest plane order update contained mention of not 300 new firm orders, but just two — and not for 737s, but 787s.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Did Boeing Just Sell Out to China?.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 28th, 2018 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Smart TVs Just as George Orwell Envisioned

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You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film. 

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been immersed in dystopian novels. George Orwell would mutter I told you so about these latest Smart TV revelations if he was still around.

Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing. A single sentence buried in a dense “privacy policy” for Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV advises users that its nifty voice command feature might capture more than just your request to play the latest episode of Downton Abbey. “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party,” the policy reads.

Samsung’s privacy policy notes that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device, “including device identifiers,” may also be beamed over the Internet to the third-party service, “or to the extent necessary to provide Voice Recognition features to you.”
McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”

“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically – The Daily Beast.)

Samsung eventually admitted the 3rd party:

Samsung has confirmed that its “smart TV” sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.

The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.

Samsung has updated its policy and named the third party in question, Nuance Communications, Inc.

(click here to continue reading Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs.)

Lonely Zenith
Lonely Zenith

Hmm, sounds familiar. Remember this from a few weeks ago:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

(click here to continue reading What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

You didn’t realize that your habits were worth so much money to the corporate surveillance world did you? Too bad the data mining industry doesn’t share in any of the profits they’ve harvested from your habits and propensities.

Plus the whole listening to you every second might not always be in your own best interests:

Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.

Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”

That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.

While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.

(click here to continue reading Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so — but Amazon won’t give up her data. – The Washington Post.)

Luckily, my “dumb” tv still chugs along…

 

Update: the Samsung story is from 2015, the Amazon and the Vizio stories are more recent. Main point still stands however…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2017 at 9:54 am

Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce

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Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market
Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market

Like so many other tech-centric new businesses, online grocery is a major topic, and yet it seems few people actually use the service.

While Wal-Mart and other retailers, including Ahold USA and Meijer Inc., are pouring money into ramping up online sales, the grocers are also buckling down on the basics of the produce department. That’s because high-quality fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods are emerging as a physical store’s best defense against growing competition from Amazon.com Inc.

Many customers decide where to shop based on the quality of the produce, and—for now—most shoppers want to pick their own ripe tomatoes or perfectly green heads of lettuce, say grocers and industry researchers. Shoppers who don’t buy groceries online most often cite the desire to pick their own produce as the reason, according to an online survey from Morgan Stanley earlier this year.

Online food and beverage sales are growing fast, up 20% since 2013, but still make up a tiny 0.16% of the $670 billion food and beverage market, according to Commerce Department figures. Only 4% of consumers said they purchased some produce through online grocers in the past year, a 2015 Nielsen survey found.

Produce also is often part of “fill-in” trips, those moments a shopper dashes to the store for a last-minute ingredient and might not wait for an online order. Produce itself isn’t usually a big moneymaker, but it draws people to stores to buy higher-margin packaged food, apparel, electronics and other items—products customers increasingly are buying online. Even Amazon wants part of the valuable market. It plans to build small stores that sell perishable foods and allow shoppers to order shelf-stable items for same-day delivery, say people familiar with the matter.

Improving Wal-Mart’s fresh food is “a huge priority for us because it’s a big traffic driver,” says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart U.S. in a March call with investors.

(click here to continue reading Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce – WSJ.)

Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve tried ordering from Instacart twice. The first time, everything came as if I had picked it myself, but the second time, the produce was sub-par. All of it. Brown spots on lettuce, bruised avocados, moldy tomatoes, mushy cucumbers, etc. So I’ve never ordered from them again, and probably never will. When it comes to grocery delivery, if it isn’t perfect, forget it. I have less than zero tolerance for mistakes. A few years prior, I had an account with a local company that delivered farmers market produce, but again, after a few bad deliveries, I cancelled my service, and have not ordered from them again. In the winter months, I sometimes use Peapod, but I tend to only buy staples like pasta, paper towels, cat litter, and bottles of wine, and don’t purchase much produce because items that are delivered are often less than ideal.

A fan of Peapod
A fan of Peapod

Time willing, I would much rather go to a farmers market or a local grocery store and carefully pick my own vegetables and fruits. 

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Net Neutrality Rules Upheld by Federal Court

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Fuck The Internet
Fuck The Internet

Huh. Well, at first blush, this seems like good news…

High-speed internet service can be defined as a utility, a federal court has ruled, a decision clearing the way for more rigorous policing of broadband providers and greater protections for web users.

The decision from a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday comes in a case about rules applying to a doctrine known as net neutrality, which prohibit broadband companies from blocking or slowing the delivery of internet content to consumers.

Those rules, created by the Federal Communications Commission in early 2015, started a huge legal battle as cable, telecom and wireless internet providers sued to overturn regulations that they said went far beyond the F.C.C.’s authority and would hurt their businesses.

The court’s decision upholds the F.C.C. on the declaration of broadband as a utility, the most significant aspect of the rules. That has broad-reaching implications for web and telecommunications companies and signals a shift in the government’s view of broadband as a service that should be equally accessible to all Americans, rather than a luxury that does not need close government supervision.

(click here to continue reading Net Neutrality Rules Upheld by Federal Court – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 14th, 2016 at 9:12 am

Western Digital Has Officially Acquired SanDisk

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Digital imagery, or as some still call it, photography, would not be possible without powerful, fast portable storage devices, such as those made by SanDisk and Western Digital…

Zoey Getting Ready to Vote in the Nature Photo Contest
 

Our New Storage Overlords: Western Digital Has Officially Acquired SanDisk:

Seven months after announcing the planned acquisition and one quarter ahead of schedule, Western Digital has officially acquired SanDisk, “creating a global leader in storage technology.”

In case you weren’t aware of how big of a deal this is (speaking both literally and figuratively), WD is happy to drive home the point in this announcement released May 12th:

The addition of SanDisk makes Western Digital Corporation a comprehensive storage solutions provider with global reach, and an extensive product and technology platform that includes deep expertise in both rotating magnetic storage and non-volatile memory (NVM).

Translation: all hail our new storage overlords.

(Via PetaPixel)

SanDisk 32 GB
SanDisk 32 GB in my Camera

and via Dow Jones:

Western Digital Corp. on Thursday cut its profit projection for the current quarter to reflect higher debt costs tied to its $19 billion acquisition of rival SanDisk Corp. this month.

The Irvine, Calif., disk-drive maker now projects 65 cents to 70 cents a share in adjusted profit for the quarter that ends July 1, compared with its earlier view of $1 to $1.10 a share.

…Western Digital, the largest maker of computer disk drives, is seeking to build on SanDisk’s position in the growing market for flash memory chips used in smartphones and other devices.

On Thursday, Western Digital officials re-iterated during a conference call with analysts that they are ramping up production of 3D flash technology, which is expected to become the mainstream data storage.

(click here to continue reading Western Digital Cuts Quarterly Profit Projection Following SanDisk Acquisition – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 27th, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Business,News-esque

Tagged with ,

Does Every Damn Thing Have to Be Connected To The Internet?

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Exc Corpse Notify
Exc Corpse Notify

Maybe the epithet is true, and I’m an analog kid after all, but count me out of connecting each and every item to the internet. I don’t see the need, nor the problem that needs this as a solution.

Let’s play a game. Which of the following is a real smartphone-connected product?

A) A bottle that tracks your H2O intake

B) A bowl that tracks your dog’s H2O intake

C) An umbrella that reminds you not to leave it behind

D) A tampon that reminds you when it is time for a change

 

It is actually a trick question. All four of these “smart” items have either been announced by startups or are already shipping.

(click here to continue reading Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped – WSJ.)

You Be the Electronic Man!
You Be the Electronic Man!

especially since so few of these devices work as promised, or have software bugs, or are poorly engineered, or whatever:

There is even greater irony: Instead of solving the hassles of everyday life, they create more of them. I’ve been testing many products that simply don’t work as promised. It is time potential buyers wised up to the Internet of Every Single Thing. Until the hardware improves and the ideas get more practical, it is buyer beware.

My egg tray doesn’t like my Wi-Fi network. That may sound like a Mad Lib, but I’m serious. It took me 15 minutes to correctly pair Quirky’s $15 Egg Minder with the iPhone app, which gives you a count of remaining eggs. Yet when I removed eggs from the tray to make breakfast, one of them remained virtually present. I guess you could say the app was… scrambled.

I washed down that delicious breakfast with nearly 15 ounces of water. But it happened to be one of the times the Hidrate Spark water bottle didn’t record it. What a waste of hydration! Later in the day at spinning class, my OMSignal smart bra only recorded half of my 45-minute workout. Because the fit of my preproduction bra wasn’t perfect, the sensors in the fabric didn’t always pick up my heart rate.

(click here to continue reading Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped – WSJ.)

I wouldn’t even want my vaporizer to have connectivity:

The Firefly2 syncs via Bluetooth to a smartphone app that lets users control the heat settings and get firmware updates. 

This might sound excessive, but it means customers won’t have to buy the newest model to get new software. The most recent update just reduced app bugs, though Williams says in the future, users may be able to select optimum settings for the material in use (such as temperature-specific tobacco, concentrates, and marijuana).

 

(click here to continue reading A former Apple designer has created the iPhone of vaporizers.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2016 at 6:24 pm

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , ,

Merchants Chip-Card Headaches

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To Safeguard Wealth Men Established Banks
To Safeguard Wealth Men Established Banks

I’m surprised that merchants haven’t stepped up their transition to chip-cards, especially now that the issuing banks are no longer responsible for fraud. All of our credit cards have chips in them, even some store-issued cards.

For millions of merchants that haven’t yet met the credit-card industry’s deadline for accepting more secure plastic, the bill is coming due.

As of last October, retailers who didn’t make the transition to chip cards are on the hook for counterfeit transactions that used to be covered by card-issuing banks. The costs of the fraud, known in the industry as chargebacks, are starting to stack up.

The credit-card industry and retailers battled for a decade over rolling out chip cards, which are more secure but also require new payment terminals and take more time at checkout. The balance tipped against retailers after a spate of cyberattacks hit major chains such as Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. and compromised millions of cards.

Target, Home Depot and some other large merchants, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are now processing chip transactions, but there are still plenty that haven’t installed the new equipment and are for the first time facing sizable costs for counterfeit transactions.

Financial institutions have been issuing the new cards to customers for more than a year, but just 22% of retailers are able to process them, according to a survey released last month by Boston Retail Partners. Another 53% of the merchants in the survey planned to install the systems within the next 12 months.

Some of them didn’t want to install the new equipment before the busy holiday shopping season and have been surprised to discover that there is a long wait to get it certified, according to payments executives and merchants.

(click here to continue reading More Chip-Card Headaches, This Time for Merchants – WSJ.)

I wonder if lawyers for various merchants are considering making consumers responsible? Or what really is the hold up? Boggles the mind that only 1/5 of the retailers have converted their credit-card accepting machines. This isn’t a new thing, sprung without warning. The change has occurred over years…

Credit Card Fraud
Credit Card Fraud – all charges eventually reversed by my bank…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2016 at 7:58 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You

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Rooms 75 cents
Hotel Rooms 75 cents…

Technology used to reduce energy use – seems like a good idea. Why isn’t this technique being used everywhere?

American hotels have long resisted key cards or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience.

Hotel guests “have a feeling that they paid for the space and they can use it freely, and there’s a natural tendency not to be too conscious of their energy use,” said Brian Carberry, a director of product management for Leviton Manufacturing Company, of Melville, N.Y., which makes key card switches and other energy-saving devices for hotels.

But the aversion of hoteliers in the United States is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use.

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 percent of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20 percent in 2004; and more than 75 percent had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20 percent. Other energy-saving measures had also been more widely adopted.

Energy costs typically represent 4 to 6 percent of a hotel’s overall operating expenses, with the largest share for heating and air-conditioning.

 …

Many major hotels in the United States have digitally controlled thermostats to monitor the temperature in guest rooms, said Pat Maher, a retired Marriott executive who is a consultant to hotels on energy management.

And a growing number, he said, have installed sophisticated systems that sense when a room is occupied. When a hotel guest enters a room, the device allows the temperature to be manually controlled within a certain range — from 60 to 80 degrees, for example — and then sets it back into an energy-saving mode when the room is vacant again.

Mr. Maher said such a system could save a hotel 20 percent or more in energy costs. And many utility companies, he noted, now offer rebates to hotels that have installed digital thermostats and other energy management devices.

(click here to continue reading At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You – The New York Times.)

I fail to see the downside to this idea, other than the hotel’s investment in the new technology, but even that seems like it would be recouped sooner than later. Would you really care if the lights were off when you entered your hotel room? And the air-conditioning wasn’t cranked to 63ºF? I wouldn’t. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2016 at 7:47 am

Clinton And West Virginia Clash Over Coal and Math

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While this topic is not strictly technology as defined by my editor, energy sources and methods are certainly technology related.

Everything If You Want Things
Everything If You Want Things

Anyway, this is the part of Hillary Clinton’s mind that irks me and many others who want to be able to vote for her in the general election. Rather than tell West Virginians the truth that coal is the energy source of the past, not the future, Ms. Clinton apologized for speaking the truth in front of a different audience.

Voters in Appalachian coal country will not soon forget that Democrat Hillary Clinton told an Ohio audience in March that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

“It was a devastating thing for her to say,” said Betty Dolan, whose diner in this mountain hamlet offers daily testament to the ravages that mining’s demise has visited upon families whose livelihood depends on coal.

Mine closures, bankruptcies and layoffs are staples of lunchtime conversation for those who have not fled town in search of work. Like many fellow Democrats in the region, Dolan, 73, favors Republican Donald Trump for president, however rude he might seem to the proprietor of a no-frills restaurant known for its graham cracker pie.

“I’m going to go for the person who wants coal,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Clash between Trump and Clinton over coal foreshadows a tough fight for her in battleground states – Chicago Tribune.)

and even went so far as to apologize! Come on…

front-running Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, where a pledge the former U.S. secretary of state made two months ago to kill coal miners’ jobs in favor of renewable energy continues to haunt her.…She had added that she doesn’t intend to abandon workers “who did the best they could to produce the energy we relied on” and apologized directly last week to an out-of-work foreman who confronted her in Williamson, West Virginia, but the general sentiment hasn’t played well in coal country.

“That was really a devastating comment,” said Robert DiClerico, a professor emeritus of political science at West Virginia University. He said he believes Clinton’s remark more than any other factor has boosted Sanders.

(click here to continue reading Hillary Clinton faces primary challenge in West Virginia coal country – Chicago Tribune.)

Solar Panels - Chicago Center for Green Technology
Solar Panels – Chicago Center for Green Technology

Mining coal is not even that big of a part of the Appalachian economy! 5% or something close to that per Wikipedia – $3.5 billion / $63.34 billion = approximately 5.5%

[West Virginia] has a projected nominal GDP of $63.34 billion in 2009 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis report of November 2010…Coal is one of the state’s primary economic resources, first discovered in the state in 1742. The industry employs 30,000 West Virginians directly, resulting in $2 billion in wages and a $3.5 billion economic impact

(click here to continue reading Economy of West Virginia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

In other words, coal is not that big of a slice of West Virginia’s current economy, more important for intangible reasons, like “optics”, and “tradition”, and “tradition” and other empty words. Ms. Clinton shouldn’t worry about putting coal miners out of business, she ought to suggest re-education programs to train coal extraction employees to work in solar and wind and other alternative energy fields instead! They get to keep being productive members of the 21st Century, and we make advances towards ameliorating global climate change.

Instead, she said this:

The exchange during a visit to a health center in Williamson, West Virginia, highlighted the challenge Democrats will face in November winning over working-class voters in states where that have lost jobs in manufacturing and mining.

“I don’t mind anybody being upset or angry” about the struggles of the industry, its workers and their families, Clinton said. “That’s a perfect right for people to feel that way. I do feel a little bit sad and sorry that I gave folks the reason and the excuse to be so upset with me because that is not what I intended at all.”

“I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” she responded at the start of several minutes of back-and-forth with Copley. “I understand the anger and I understand the fear and I understand the disappointment that is being expressed.”

(click here to continue reading Clinton walks back coal remarks after confrontation in West Virginia – Chicago Tribune.)

and also, most maddening, Hillary Clinton’s pandering is not even necessary – West Virginia is not going to suddenly vote for a Democrat in the general election! They are a reliable Republican state!

David Myers, an out-of-work miner, echoed the profanity Trump has repeatedly used on Twitter to repudiate global warming. Like Trump, Myers and others in coal country say misguided plans to stop it are costing jobs.

“A man of my caliber should be able to get a job in a blink of an eye, but there’s no jobs to be had,” said Myers, 49, who wore miner coveralls to Trump’s rally.

Trump has dismissed global warming as a “canard,” “hoax” and “total con job,” citing cold weather snaps as evidence.

On the day of Obama’s 2012 reelection, Trump tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In September, he told CNN, “I don’t believe in climate change.”

(click here to continue reading Clash between Trump and Clinton over coal foreshadows a tough fight for her in battleground states – Chicago Tribune.)

It's Not Just A Job. it's An Adventure. Navy.
It’s Not Just A Job. it’s An Adventure. Navy.

update: both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton already have retraining proposals, fwiw:

“We just don’t want to be forgotten,” said Betty Dolin, who co-owns a restaurant in Danville, about 20 miles southwest of Charleston, where customers tucked into hearty meals like meatloaf and country fried steak with gravy.

She pointed out the empty tables that would once have been filled. “We can’t have coal? Bring us something else,” she said. “And I don’t mean job training. A lot of these men are too old to train for another job.”

Presidential primaries tend to bring attention to local issues as candidates move from state to state, and as the candidates have come to West Virginia to campaign, coal has been no exception.

“These communities need help,” Mr. Sanders said last week at a food bank in McDowell County. “It is not the coal miners’ fault in terms of what’s happening in this world.”

In some ways, Mr. Sanders is not a natural candidate to be courting the votes of coal miners: He is outspoken on climate change and advocates moving away from fossil fuels. But his message of economic fairness has been embraced by white, working-class voters.

Mr. Sanders has proposed legislation that would provide $41 billion to help coal and other fossil fuel workers and their communities, offering support like financial assistance and job training.

Mrs. Clinton has her own $30 billion plan to help coal miners and their communities, including a program to provide funding to local school districts to help make up for lost revenue.

(click here to continue reading Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Court West Virginians Hit Hard by Coal’s Decline – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2016 at 7:29 am

Speaker Maker Bowers & Wilkins Sells Out to a Tiny Silicon Valley Startup

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Quickly, one last entry into today’s tech file:

Bowers & Wilkins

Joe Atkins, chief executive officer of Bowers & Wilkins, has owned a majority stake in the half-century-old British speaker business for the last 30 years. On Tuesday, he plans to tell his 1,100 employees that he’s selling it to a tiny company that almost no one has heard of, run by a man he met just 30 days ago. Over the weekend, Atkins reached a sale agreement with Eva Automation, a 40-person Silicon Valley startup that hasn’t yet sold a single product or service. The company was started in 2014 by Gideon Yu, a former Facebook Inc. chief financial officer, ex-venture capitalist, and current co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers. Yu has said little about his startup. According to the company’s website, it is “making products that will change how people interact and think about the home.” About a quarter of its employees have worked at Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Bowers & Wilkins became a household name before speaker companies had to distinguish themselves through Spotify integrations and voice recognition capability. While Bowers & Wilkins does sell speakers designed to accommodate people used to listening to music through their smartphones, Atkins acknowledges that his company lacks the expertise needed to build software that communicates with cloud services. Any company that wants to sell speakers at a significant premium would need to integrate high-end hardware with sophisticated software. Yu plans to begin selling new products that incorporate Eva’s work by early to mid-2017.

(click here to continue reading Speaker Maker Bowers & Wilkins Sells Out to a Tiny Silicon Valley Startup – Bloomberg.)

I have owned three different Bowers & Wilkins headphones: they all still have great sound. I hope these new owners don’t gut the company of what made it great and run it into the ground.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment

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Speaking of privacy and technology, Wired Magazine’s Mark McClusky boasted to Ad Age that everything is going great with their ad blocker gambit.

Ad Blockers - Wired
Ad Blockers – Wired

In early February, Condé Nast’s Wired took a stand against the rise of ad-blocking technology, which was being used on more than 20% of visits to the magazine’s website. It gave ad-blocking Wired readers two options: whitelist Wired.com, allowing ads to be served as intended, or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of the site. “We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content,” Wired said in a note to readers at the time, “but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.”

Nearly three months in, Wired Head of Product and Business Development Mark McClusky pronounced himself pleased with the early returns.

“Overall, it’s going great,” he told Ad Age. “We’ve exceeded sort of our hopes and expectations in terms of the performance.” “The uptake in whitelisting has exceeded our expectation, the subscriptions have gone better than we projected, the abandon rate has been lower than we projected,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment | Media – AdAge.)

Here’s the thing: in general, I support magazines and news organizations desire to stay solvent, in fact going as far as to give subscription dollars to several of them1 including even for a long time, to Wired Magazine. But the print edition of Wired was somewhere around $12 a year – by their new model, they want to charge me $52 a year to read their content. 

OVER THE PAST several years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software in their web browser. We have certainly seen a growth in those numbers here at WIRED, where we do all we can to write vital stories for an audience that’s passionate about the ongoing adventure of our rapidly changing world.

On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.

We know that there are many reasons for running an ad blocker, from simply wanting a faster, cleaner browsing experience to concerns about security and tracking software. We want to offer you a way to support us while also addressing those concerns.

Therefore, we have restricted access to articles on WIRED.com if you are using an ad blocker.

(click here to continue reading How WIRED Is Going to Handle Ad Blocking | WIRED.)

I happily use Ghostery, which is not strictly an ad blocker, but rather an enhanced cookie blocker. I just went to random Wired.com article, (http://www.wired.com/2016/05/adblock-plus-now-wants-pay-browse-internet/) and these are the trackers that Wired wants to serve me in lieu of my $52 payment:

  • Adobe Audience Manager
  • Adobe TagManager
  • Amazon Associates
  • ChartBeat
  • Disqus
  • Google Adsense
  • Google AdServices
  • Optimizely
  • Parse.ly
  • Pinterest
  • Polar Mobile
  • Rubicon
  • ScoreCard Research 
  • Yieldbot

plus one I keep turned on because I like fonts and appreciate web designers who use specific fonts: 

Typekit by Adobe

In other words, Wired wants me to agree to sell my data to these corporations in exchange for reading an article about Adblock Plus. I don’t know each of these entities, but I’m guessing most2 don’t only report to Wired – they sell the data they’ve accumulated to multiple parties. And they don’t give me any slice of the revenue.

Hmm, on balance, I’ll keep my $52, and I’ll stop clicking through to Wired articles. Sounds fair.

Footnotes:
  1. Tidbits.com, NYT, WSJ, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Harpers, etc. etc. []
  2. or all []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 8:43 pm