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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Tidbits.com, NYT, WSJ, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Harpers, etc. etc. [↩]
This sucky blog’s editor1 has assigned Tuesday’s topic as technology. Like all good topics, that’s a bit vague, there are lots of threads that can be collected here.
Don’t Worry – Keep Shopping…
We’ve discussed the weird state of consumer data many times, where companies such as Acxiom and thousands of others collect every scrap of information about us they possibly can, by whatever method, and then sell it to marketers. Our data, our habits, our propensities, but their profits. Seems like a bum deal, for consumers.
So when I read the headline on this Fast Company article, I got interested. The headline and sub-head reads:
This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data InfoScout’s apps sell their users’ shopping data to marketers—and give those users a cut.
but that is not quite truthful. Or at least, InfoScout isn’t selling shopping data in a manner I was hoping. No, they mean that if you willingly give InfoScout information about your shopping trips by photographing/scanning your receipts, they’ll drop a few pennies in your cup now and again. If you are lucky.
San Francisco-based InfoScout offers a set of smartphone apps that lets users snap pictures of shopping receipts in exchange for incentives like credit card-style reward points and sweepstakes entries. The company digitizes the receipts with a mix of optical character recognition and crowdsourced help from services such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
Then it bundles that purchase information into reports it offers to companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, letting them see how consumer preferences evolve over time and how discounts and promotions affect sales.
“Our ability to provide these insights back to the brands in near real time, literally within days, is something they’ve never had before,” claims CEO Jared Schrieber, who cofounded InfoScout in 2011.
Schrieber says that while brands can get some data from programs like supermarket reward card programs, those usually only track customer activity at one particular retail company.
“We’re not trying to change what people buy,” Schrieber says. “We’re just trying to observe it.”
The company says it has collected data on more than 100 million shopping trips and is processing about 300,000 receipts per day. Users can of course choose not to scan receipts that include purchases they find embarrassing, but Schrieber says many just upload every receipt, so the apps gather quite a bit of data about sensitive purchases, such as condoms and feminine hygiene products. Ultimately, what type of purchase information users feel is worth trading for a few cents or a sweepstakes entry is up to them.
Users can participate anonymously or receive additional rewards for linking the app to their Facebook profiles, answering demographic questions, or taking occasional surveys.
InfoScout is not even alone in using this model. I recently saw a presentation that included mention of Ibotta– a smartphone app where consumers photograph their receipt and theoretically get future coupons. Or rebates, whatever.
1. Download the App Download the Ibotta app, available on iOS and Android. The app is required to submit a receipt.
2. Unlock Rebates Before you go shopping, unlock cash rewards on great products by completing simple tasks.
3. Go Shopping Buy the products you’ve unlocked at any supported store.
4. Verify Your Purchases Scan your product barcodes, then submit a photo of your receipt.
If you jump through the hoops in precisely the correct way, you may get a few pennies. According to some internet complainers, Ibotta mostly uses the small print to avoid paying out.
I read about IBOTTA on Facebook and decided to try it out. Downloading the app was easy and the instructions were straight forward. Two days ago I wend grocery shopping and decided to use the app for rebates on bread, milk and eggs – all of which were on my shopping list and I was shopping at a listed store. When I returned home I scanned the items as requested by the app and took a picture of the receipt. All items were accepted. Today I received an email stating that my account had been deactivated because of fraud. From what I understand I am being deactivated for taking a picture of the same receipt. Well, duh..I bought the items at the same time, so they would be on the same receipt. No where in the instructions does it say that you have to have a separate receipt for each item purchased. Plus you are going to spend more time sorting out your groceries and paying for each item separately – not worth the money they say they will pay you.
I downloaded the app and it isn’t terribly hard to figure out. Verified the items and got the approval for receipt. All fine. Now when it comes to actually getting paid, all that happens is a notice on the site saying “working on the site”. Seems everything works that makes them money but nothing works where they pay money.
I am guessing they are out of cash and so just stick this sign up to avoid the real issue.
I suppose you’ll have to decide for yourself, is willingly giving corporations intimate shopping data about you and your family worth a few pennies? Your data is much more valuable to them – building smartphone apps and Point-of-Sale and coupon redemption infrastructure is not cheap. A corporation wouldn’t invest millions unless it was worth it to their bottom line.
Not This Store
I’m still waiting for one of the companies that Ghostery tracks to start offering me a real cut of the sale of my data, I’d whitelist their tracking cookie, and they would pay me a percentage every month. Ha! Zero is a percent…
More than a few times I’ve wondered if I’m absolutely loco, or if I really have something of value to give.” At the other end of the line, Scott Fagan’s voice falls quiet. “At my lowest place, I would go into the library at UCLA and look up ‘Jasper Johns’ and ‘Scott Fagan Record’. It meant a lot to me.”
Fagan’s story is one of extraordinary fortune and disappointment, a tale that takes in abject poverty in the US Virgin Islands, the height of the Greenwich Village folk scene, love, alcoholism, Jasper Johns, the Magnetic Fields and some of the biggest names in music. It is a story that encapsulates the great near-miss of a musical career, and now, somewhat late in the day, the possible glimmer of success. “Forget Rodriguez, forget Searching for Sugar Man,” says Sharyn Felder, daughter of the late Doc Pomus, the legendary songwriter who signed Fagan in 1964. “Scott was so much more. He was cut from a different cloth.”
The results of WIU’s 2015 mock election are in, and if you tend to take the mainstream media seriously, the results of that election will more than likely surprise you: Bernie Sanders won the presidency, then the general election… and he did both in a massive landslide.
The WIU mock election, in which thousands of students from multiple schools form parties and caucuses and play out a small-scale election over the course of several days, has Bernie Sanders beating Hillary Clinton in 22 out of 26 primary states; Hillary Clinton survives past Super Tuesday, but loses out before the month of March is concluded.
As Syria sinks ever deeper into civil war, evidence is starting to emerge that a brutal and bloody conflict that has left more than 100,000 people dead and displaced as many as two million is now also being fuelled (sic) by both the export and consumption of rapidly increasing quantities of illegal drugs.
Separate investigations by the news agency Reuters and Time magazine have found that the growing trade in Syrian-made Captagon – an amphetamine widely consumed in the Middle East but almost unknown elsewhere – generated revenues of millions of dollars inside the country last year, some of which was almost certainly used to fund weapons, while combatants on both sides are reportedly turning to the stimulant to help them keep fighting.
What does it say about the technological world in which we live that 92 percent of the people asked could not identify the name of the program they use to access the Web? If other statistics are to be believed, browsing the Web is the primary use of computers today, so that’s saying these people couldn’t name the program they use more than any other.
Worse, some of the answers on the video reveal that they don’t even know what a program is. A number of them identified their browser as “a search engine” and “Google.” When asked which browser he used, one guy said “the big E,” undoubtedly meaning Microsoft Internet Explorer, which has a stylized lowercase letter E as its icon.
When the best someone can come up with is a vague recollection of a program’s icon, it says to me that we’ve entered a “post-literate” technological society, one in which people have lost not just the ability to read and write about a topic, but also the ability to speak about it, all while retaining the ability to use it.
Prosecutors in the Los Angeles suburb responsible for a huge share of the nation’s wiretaps almost certainly violated federal law when they authorized widespread eavesdropping that police used to make more than 300 arrests and seize millions of dollars in cash and drugs throughout the USA.
The violations could undermine the legality of as many as 738 wiretaps approved in Riverside County, Calif., since the middle of 2013, an investigation by USA TODAY and The Desert Sun, based on interviews and court records, has found. Prosecutors reported that those taps, often conducted by federal drug investigators, intercepted phone calls and text messages by more than 52,000 people.
Federal law bars the government from seeking court approval for a wiretap unless a top prosecutor has personally authorized the request. Congress added that restriction in the 1960s, when the FBI had secretly monitored civil rights leaders, to ensure that such intrusive surveillance would not be conducted lightly.
In Riverside County — a Los Angeles suburb whose court and prosecutors approved almost one of every five U.S. wiretaps last year — the district attorney turned the job of reviewing the applications over to lower-level lawyers, interviews and court records show. That practice almost certainly violated the federal wiretapping law and could jeopardize prosecutors’ ability to use the surveillance in court.
Scary, I’m still waiting for the liberal-leaning, or even socialist-leaning billionaire to emulate the Koch Brothers and their ilk…
The Koch brothers are really going to have to kick their public relations efforts into high gear now to make the latest revelation about their nefarious efforts to acquire the U.S. system of governance in a hostile takeover look like politics as usual. They have a “secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence-gathering on its liberal opponents, viewing it as a key strategic tool in its efforts to reshape American public life.” No, it’s not April Fool’s Day. They’re really doing this.
The operation, which is little-known even within the Koch network, gathers what Koch insiders refer to as “competitive intelligence” that is used to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the expansive network. The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular “intelligence briefing” emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.
The competitive intelligence team has gathered on-the-ground intelligence from liberal groups’ canvassing events in an effort to assess the technology and techniques of field efforts to boost Democrats, according to the sources. And they say the team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts.
In a perfect world, all former members of the Bush administration, specifically former President Bush, along with Dick Cheney and the administration’s national security czars, should’ve spent the last several nights sleepless and emotionally crushed with brutal regret and unbelievable remorse by the horrifying events that transpired in Paris. It’s been a rough several days for the so-called Bush Doctrine and the fallacy that the previous White House occupants somehow “kept us safe,” given the pair of news stories that ought to further condemn the Bushes in the eyes of history.
The first story, though not the most heart-wrenching of the weekend, was a report from Politico’s Chris Whipple who, once and for all, confirmed that the Bush team entirely failed to prevent 9/11 in the face of multiple warnings that a “spectacular” attack was being planned for inside the United States. According to Whipple, the CIA and Director George Tenet were aware that an attack was imminent and reported this information to Condoleezza Rice and others inside the White House, where the intelligence was mostly brushed off. This in addition to the dozen or so counter-terrorism warnings originally revealed by author Kurt Eichenwald that came from other al-Qaeda experts in- and outside the White House. Given the sheer volume of actionable intelligence relating to Bin Laden at the time, there’s no excuse whatsoever for failing to prevent the attack, or, at the very least, doing anything about the warnings, even if those actions ultimately failed.
Twenty-four hours after an attack by Da’esh (the organization formerly known as ISIS ) on Paris left 129 dead and 352 wounded, the Internet and the airwaves alike have been filled with profound waves of self-serving nonsense and stupidity from left and right alike. Everyone seems to have found a way in which this situation justifies their position – protect the refugees! Exile the refugees! Bomb someone! Stop all bombing of anyone! – and magically, it seems that one of the most complex political situations of our time can be reduced to simple slogans.
Well, I’ve run out of patience with this, so let me seriously discuss what just happened here, and what it tells us. I’m going to talk about three things which have combined to lead to yesterday’s massacre: the refugee crisis, Europe’s Muslim population, and Da’esh. I’ll then talk about a few things which I think have little or nothing to do with what we’re seeing – most importantly, religion and oil – and a few things which do – such as food and water. And finally, we’ll talk about what it’s going to take to fix this, both in the short term and the long term.
Being entirely out of patience right now, forgive me for being particularly blunt. I suspect that, by the end of this, you will be thoroughly offended by my opinions, whether you are American, European, or Middle Eastern, left or right: nobody has behaved well in the lead-up to this.
We’ve grown accustomed to Carly Fiorina’s brand of truth-telling. She seems to lie so easily, I don’t even think she knows the difference between fact and fiction at this point. The overarching theme of her Fox and Friends interview today is fearmongering. Rather than rehashing what she said verbatim, I feel it’s important to discuss reality. I’m certain that you’ve heard her put down President Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry plenty of times. She’s so much more capable because she’d be a real Commander in Chief, not a ‘politician.’ You get the gist of her right wing talking points; the ones that are so easily discredited.
The iconic railroad bridge just south of the Kinzie Street Bridge on the North Branch of the Chicago River that almost always is raised was lowered for several minutes this morning for its one truck crossing per year.
The bridge is lowered once a year so that a Hy-Rail truck (a type of pickup truck that can drive on tracks or roads) can go onto the tracks, which officially places the rail line in “active status,” according to Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite.
According to a finalized list of BCCS clinics for the 2016-17 fiscal year, obtained Wednesday by the Observer, at least one area of the state where Planned Parenthood was previously the only BCCS provider still remains without one: McLennan County.
Tonya Capson, health center manager at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Waco, said that in the two months since the fiscal year began September 1, she has received phone calls from at least seven patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and need help enrolling in Medicaid for breast and cervical cancer treatment. Assistance with quick Medicaid coverage is unique to the BCCS program; only a state contracted provider can directly enroll a patient.
“I have to call them back and explain that we are no longer contracted with BCCS and we are no longer able to help with those applications,” Capson told the Observer, adding that Planned Parenthood has directed patients to the state Health and Human Services Commission’s online clinic locator, but has not directly heard from the agency concerning where to send BCCS patients.
Apologies if you are one of the few brave and foolhardy souls who still subscribe to my daily newsletter. Your email contained a bunch of gobbledygook links today. Some background: before Twitter and Facebook, there was a social URL-sharing network called Delicious. Users of Delicious shared snippets from webpages, which is sort of how I still use Twitter1
Delicious was, and still remains, integrated with Google’s long neglected RSS engine, Feedburner. In other words, if you subscribe to my email newsletter, or use my blog’s RSS feed, you see Delicious links, Flickr images as well as occasional actual blog posts like this one merged together. But2 yesterday I started using a new RSS reading app. NetNewsWire has been my RSS reading app of choice since 2002, but it is feeling increasingly neglected, without much integration into the web services of 2015, so I purchased a competitor, Reeder, and lo-and-behold, posting directly to Delicious is an option! If I can press a button and post to Delicious, I’ll use the feature more frequently. With NetNewsWire, posting to Delicious meant logging in the site, copying and pasting the URL, copying and pasting the snippet, adding tags – about the same amount of effort would yield an actual blog post. With Reeder, I just press a button, and if I want, add tags. Much simpler. Except as I discovered this morning, the Delicious post gets mangled somewhere between Feedburner and Reeder. Basically, the URL is not properly formatted and looks like
Here are the five snippets I wanted to post, but didn’t have the stamina nor time to annote/respond to. One snippet I did manage to later turn into a blog post, but I’m including it here anyway …
The Great Controversy: Ben Carson, Ellen G. White, and Seventh-day Adventism
Ben Carson has famously said that a Muslim who wishes to become president of the United States must “reject the tenets of Islam.”
But what about members of his own church — The Seventh-day Adventist church? Must they reject its doctrines in order to become president?
The SDA church was co-founded by Ellen G. White, who was its original leader and prophet. She is to Adventists what Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Muhammad are to Christian Scientists, Mormons, and Muslims, respectively (not respectfully). And her book, The Great Controversy, corresponds to Science and Health, the Book of Mormon, and the Quran. And it fully deserves to be among them, as one of the the worst books ever written.
Someone should ask Dr. Carson if he believes in Ellen White’s prophecy in The Great Controversy with regard to the “big role” that the United States will play. Specifically, is the United States the two-horned beast that speaks like a lion of Revelation 13:11?
If so, he should renounce that belief (along with the rest of White’s “prophecy”) before anyone should consider voting for him for president.
Björk on Iceland: ‘We don’t go to church, we go for a walk’ Björk used to walk across the tundra singing at the top of her lungs. John Grant left America for its rocky grandeur and Sigur Rós’s music captures its isolation. What is it about the Icelandic landscape that hypnotises artists?
Cornel West tears into hypocritical “sister Clinton” while filling in for Bernie Sanders at an Iowa BBQ “Democratic socialism isn’t some kind of alien element. It’s organic and indigenous in the history of this nation.”
West turned to Sanders’ main opponent for the Democratic ticket, claiming that “we have to be honest about our dear sister Hillary Clinton — when it comes to my gay brothers and my lesbian sisters, one year, she says ‘marriage is just male and female.’ A few years later, she says she’s ‘evolved.’ I say, ‘I’m open to evolution.’
“But there’s certain issues that should cut so deep,” he concluded, “that you don’t need to be a thermometer — you can be a thermostat!”
The Velvet Underground – see the video for Some Kinda Love (live) The new Complete Matrix Tapes box set is a brilliant insight into one of rock’s greatest bands – and we’ve got this track from the set
This Friday sees the release of The Complete Matrix Tapes, bringing together all the recordings made of the Velvet Underground at the San Francisco venue on 26 and 27 November 1969. Heard in their entirety, the recordings are revelatory – you get to hear wildly different versions of the same songs, Lou Reed chatting and joking with his audience, and a rock band exploring the limits of their performance – right up to a 38-minute version of Sister Ray.
While most of the 42 tracks on the four-disc box have been heard before, nine are exclusives. What’s more, the tracks previously heard on The Bootleg Series, Vol 1: The Quine Tapes were in nothing like this level of fidelity. In a world of box sets packed with unnecessary fillers, this one is anything but.
The actor will star alongside Harrison Ford in the sequel to the sci-fi classic
he offered this fairly long-winded account of where Deckard has been living following the events of the original film:
We decided to start the film off with the original starting block of the original film. We always loved the idea of a dystopian universe, and we start off at what I describe as a ‘factory farm’ – what would be a flat land with farming. Wyoming. Flat, not rolling – you can see for 20 miles. No fences, just plowed, dry dirt. Turn around and you see a massive tree, just dead, but the tree is being supported and kept alive by wires that are holding the tree up. It’s a bit like Grapes of Wrath, there’s dust, and the tree is still standing. By that tree is a traditional, Grapes of Wrath-type white cottage with a porch. Behind it at a distance of two miles, in the twilight, is this massive combine harvester that’s fertilizing this ground. You’ve got 16 Klieg lights on the front, and this combine is four times the size of this cottage. And now a spinner [a flying car] comes flying in, creating dust. Of course, traditionally chased by a dog that barks, the doors open, a guy gets out and there you’ve got Rick Deckard. He walks in the cottage, opens the door, sits down, smells stew, sits down and waits for the guy to pull up to the house to arrive. The guy’s seen him, so the guy pulls the combine behind the cottage and it towers three stories above it, and the man climbs down from a ladder – a big man. He steps onto the balcony and he goes to Harrison’s side. The cottage actually [creaks]; this guy’s got to be 350 pounds. I’m not going to say anything else – you’ll have to go see the movie.
Yesterday, I logged on to my WordPress Dashboard to see if any upgrades were available. I usually log on a few times a week, depending upon how actively I’ve blogged, or if I know of a WordPress upgrade. Once I logged on, I got an odd message that my plugins didn’t load because something was wrong with their headers. I clicked the Plugins menu to see what was going on, and instead, there was a message saying “You do not appear to have any plugins available at this time.”
Earlier in the week, the same thing had happened to my photo blog – plugins suddenly were non-functional. I was in the middle of a work-related crisis, so asked my cousin, the WordPress expert who actually constructed the photo blog, to look into it. He found malware, restored the photo blog to an earlier version with a backup, and it seemed ok. Since I was still sweating out the work-related crises, I didn’t look deeper. The photo blog seemed to work ok.
But now my blog was doing the same thing, and I had some time to investigate. I logged in to my site via FTP, and looked in the plugins folder. Several plugins were there. I opened one plugin directory, and one PHP file1 at random: the first line was a long string of code, obviously some sort of malware. Ru-oh! I renamed the plugins folder, which rendered it unusable by WordPress, created a new folder called plugins, and quickly installed a fresh copy of Akismet, a spam comment blocker. In the 15 minutes or so it took from when I first encountered an error until when I reinstalled Akismet, I received 59 spam comments! Yeesh.
I looked at the various WordPress PHP files, bits of code that make the blog do what it does, every single one had the same piece of malware inserted in the first line. I reinstalled WordPress, which creates fresh copies of the majority of PHP files in wp-admin; in wp-includes and in the default WordPress directory. However, some files were not replaced, I had to open them manually and strip out the malware. Reinstalling WordPress does not touch anything in wp-content – themes, plugins, etc. I did not have backup copies of my Solipsism theme for some reason, so I had to clean several files here manually. Initially I mucked this procedure up by stripping out some good code as well, but eventually I figured out what was missing.2
I took a deeper look at my photo blog, and though the plugins were clean, and the theme files were clean, all other PHP files were corrupted. Again, I reinstalled a fresh copy of WordPress 4.1, and manually cleaned the remaining files (wp-config.php; wp-pass.php, wp-feed.php and so on).
The HTML was horribly mangled, I would be surprised if it did anything, but maybe it would be enough if Google indexed a link pointing to some schmoe who paid a consultant for Search Engine Optimization. But maybe not.
For instance, a portion of that particular spam page opened in a web browser looks exactly like this:
Create alert Self experiencing problems with problem with your consult an experienced for example, an e-mail, which is suitable day work. Diamond Call Ross on employer should protect a union, they but it would. Kentucky Diamond View all Altisource Vacations Worldwide jobs jobs Learn more about working at Altisource You can below, together with spending 2-6 hours a day at home This work can be done Colleges Equal Opportunity Williamsburg, Virginia – be at least High School diploma. Diamond
Whatever. I deleted these as soon as I could, shaking my fist at the evil spammer.
I found a few PHP files in my root level directory, I deleted these or cleaned them as needed.
I had tried to install a Drupal blog a while ago, before abandoning it as a futile, frustrating endeavor, but the files were still residing on my server, and all its PHP files were compromised.
I put in a tech-support request to Pair.com, my web-host, asking them to double check if any PHP files remained that were corrupted, I haven’t yet heard back from them. But I think I cleaned up all the malware, all it took was eight hours of work on a Saturday night…
Today I’m planning on looking deeper into the MYSQL databases, and see if there are any unknown users or other oddnesses, and maybe change all my passwords. I’m not sure how the evil spammers were able to insert the malicious code, but I don’t want to have to go through all this again. Oh, and make backups! and backups of the backups!
Good for Microsoft, and good for the tech industry to rally behind Microsoft1
A broad array of organizations in technology, media and other fields rallied on Monday behind Microsoft’s effort to block American authorities from seizing a customer’s emails stored in Ireland.
The organizations filing supporting briefs in the Microsoft case included Apple, Amazon, Verizon, Fox News, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, CNN and almost two dozen other technology and media companies. A cross-section of trade associations and advocacy groups, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the United States Chamber of Commerce, and 35 computer scientists also signed briefs in the case, which is being considered in New York by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“Seldom do you see the breadth and depth of legal involvement that we’re seeing today for a case that’s below the Supreme Court,” Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in an interview.
The case involves a decision by Microsoft to defy a domestic search warrant seeking emails stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin. Microsoft has argued that the search warrant could provide a dangerous precedent that is already leading to privacy concerns among customers. The case is especially relevant, the company says, to customers who are considering conducting more of their electronic business in the cloud.
Today represents an important milestone in our litigation concerning the U.S. Government’s attempt to use a search warrant to compel Microsoft to obtain and turn over email of a customer stored in Ireland. That’s because 10 groups are filing their “friend of the court” briefs in New York today.
Seldom has a case below the Supreme Court attracted the breadth and depth of legal involvement we’re seeing today. Today’s ten briefs are signed by 28 leading technology and media companies, 35 leading computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations that together represent millions of members on both sides of the Atlantic.
We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws. In contrast, the U.S. Government’s unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk. And as today’s briefs demonstrate, the impacts of this step are far-reaching.
Today’s briefs come from:
Leading technology companies such as Verizon, Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Salesforce, HP, eBay, Infor, AT&T, and Rackspace. They’re joined by five major technology trade associations that collectively represent most of the country’s technology sector, including the BSA | The Software Alliance and the Application Developers Alliance. These groups raise a range of concerns about the significant impact this case could have both on the willingness of foreign customers to trust American technology and on the privacy rights of their customers, including U.S. customers if other governments adopt the approach to U.S. datacenters that the U.S. Government is advocating here.
Seventeen major and diverse news and media companies, including CNN, ABC, Fox News, Forbes, the Guardian, Gannett, McClatchy, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, and The Seattle Times. They’re joined by ten news and media associations that collectively represent thousands of publications and journalists. These include the Newspaper Association of America, the National Press Club, the European Publishers Council, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. These organizations are concerned that the lower court’s decision, if upheld, will erode the legal protections that have long restricted the government’s ability to search reporters’ email for information without the knowledge of news organizations.
Almost sounds a little back-alley-ish: “hey, I’ve been deluging you with these ads for decades, but for a small fee, I’ll remove them, in certain circumstances…”
On Thursday, Google started experimenting with a new way to let users contribute to web sites in exchange for removing – or at least reducing – the number of ads. The service, called Contributor by Google, has users give between $1 and $3 a month to sites like The Onion and Mashable.
Once they pay, the ads that normally show will be replaced with a banner that says “Thank you for being a contributor.”
For Contributor, Google is only working with 10 sites, and it will take a small cut of the contributions. The sites may not be completely ad free: Google only has the power to remove ads it has served, so it should probably be described as a way to see “fewer ads” rather than no ads.
The only way I could see this working would be for low-traffic websites with a loyal leadership – it seems Google shares a slice of that fee with the publisher. I notice Google doesn’t disclose what the percentages actually are, it could be a 90-10 split for all we know, with Google retaining $2.70 of a $3 contribution. I doubt I’d ever use Contributor By Google, but you never know. Is the occasional visit to Urban Dictionary or The Onion worth $36 a year? Meh. Especially since I use Ghostery to block most ads in the first place, so the savings would be negligible, plus Google would be able to accumulate more data about me for their data mills.
Sophism Becomes You
I used to have Google Ads displayed over there on the right column, and when this blog sucked less1 and got more daily traffic, the ads paid me a few hundred dollars a year. That was quite a while ago though, certainly before Twitter and other social media soaked up my bandwidth, and the tumbleweeds started accumulating here. In fact, I removed the Google Ads several years ago, probably when Google started frequently being a bully and a thief.2
Since 2003 we’ve seen the National Science Foundation release its requirements for Data Management Plans (DMPs) and the White House address records management, open government data and “big data.” There are now data management and sharing requirements from NASA, the Department of Energy… In this two-part series on government data management we’ll take a look back at some of the guidance that is driving data management practices across the federal government. In the second part we’ll look at the tools and services that have developed to meet the needs of this expanding data management infrastructure. It’s 2014 and we’re still struggling to ensure that the outputs of government-funded research are secure and made accessible as building blocks for new knowledge, but it’s not for lack of trying: federal government agencies such as NIH and the NSF recognized the need to preserve and keep data accessible through the requirements tied to their grant funding.
Kudos to Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, let us stipulate that this becomes a national trend, and soon…
Every major Internet browser has a feature that lets you tell a website that you don’t want it to collect personal information about you when you visit.
And virtually every website ignores those requests. Tracking your online activities — and using that data to tailor marketing pitches — is central to how Internet companies make money.
Now California’s attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, wants every site to tell you — in clear language — if and how it is respecting your privacy preferences. The guidelines, which will be published on Wednesday, are intended to help companies comply with a new state privacy law that went into effect on Jan. 1. That law requires sites to prominently disclose all their privacy practices, including how they respond to “do not track” requests.
“This guide is a tool for businesses to create clear and transparent privacy policies that reflect the state’s privacy laws and allow consumers to make informed decisions,” Ms. Harris said in a statement.
Though this is a voluntary rule, and there are lots of lobbyists chewing on Congress-critters ears to block this practice from expanding, the publics’ opinion is very clear, so maybe by the time the aliens land, or the oceans reach the Midwest, we’ll have action:
The California guidelines for the Jan. 1 privacy law are voluntary. Other efforts to establish more binding privacy protections — either through federal or state laws or through industry self-regulation — have failed to win enough support to pass.
In an attempt to nudge the process along, two of the leading web browsers, Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, began giving users the option of sending a signal that tells all websites they visit that they don’t want to be tracked. Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome later added similar options.
But despite pledges by the advertising and technology industries to find a way to honor such requests — and endless discussions at an industry standards group, the World Wide Web Consortium, that was supposed to come up with a common set of rules — little progress has been made. This month, a White House advisory group again called for limits on tracking.
Yahoo, which was one of the first companies to respect “do not track” signals, announced last month that it would no longer do so. Part of the company’s turnaround strategy depends on personalizing its services and advertising, which requires — you guessed it — tracking you across the web.
For what it’s worth, I still use Ghostery, despite it breaking functionality of some websites like Crain’s Chicago, or Nordstroms…
Speaking of nostalgia, will this exhibit trigger a typewriter renaissance like the vinyl record resurgence? I’m ancient enough to have written nearly all of my college papers and other writings on typewriters; computers were not common tools until my senior year, and I never owned a computer myself until after I moved to Chicago. I took a typing class as a freshman at Travis High School1 so I always felt comfortable with my fingers on a keyboard. As an aside, before Mac OS X, when it was easier to crash your computer by adding system extensions and control panels, I had an INIT that made typing on my Mac sound like the click-clack of a typewriter. At least you knew when you pressed a key…
The labels alone make a racket: Meiselbach, Blickensderfer, Bar-Lock. No wonder the show-namers at the New Britain Museum of American Art call their fabulous little exhibition of antique typewriters “Click! Clack! Ding!”
The nickel-plated Odell No. 2, an 1890s machine made in Chicago, looks like a cross between a meat slicer and a sextant. The Lambert No. 1, a 1902 invention that retains its handsome wooden case, resembles an old-fashioned telephone and is about the same size. Even some of the typewriters featuring keyboards and more familiar designs are not what you would describe as “user-friendly”: Where exactly is the paper supposed to go? Why can’t I see the ribbon?
It turns out that the earliest typewriters were “blindwriters,” like the 1876 Sholes & Glidden No. 1 that is the oldest item in “Click! Clack! Ding!” A large and ornate cousin of the sewing machine, the Sholes & Glidden did not permit the typist to see the surface of the paper, which was imprinted — uppercase only — from below. (The operator could enjoy the golden garlands and rosy blossoms delicately painted on the machine’s black casing, however.) As for the specimens without keyboards, they were the very first portables. Known as “index” typewriters, they work with a pointer-like device that selects a letter and another that presses it into the paper — a perfect machine for the two-finger typist.
These early technologies soon gave way to improvements — uppercase and lowercase in the Smith-Premier No. 1 and the Bar-Lock No. 2; “visible” typing in the Williams No. 4 and the Meiselbach Sholes Visible. “Click! Clack! Ding!” conveys some of the history and significance of the typewriters on view, selected from the nearly 300 owned by a Connecticut collector, Greg Fudacz. There is another Connecticut connection as well: Hartford, the home base for Royal and Underwood, was once called “the typewriter capital of the world.” Other brands came from other towns, including Bridgeport, Derby, Middletown, New Haven and Waterbury.
The 1906 Chicago Model 1 looks less antique than the 1922 Noiseless Portable. And you can’t help wondering what today’s computers would look like if the Odell No. 2, with its circular base and saw-tooth bar of letters, had won out in the turn-of-the-century marketplace for writing machines.
my only B, possibly preventing me from being valedictorian – I ended up 8th in my class. If I hadn’t gotten that B, perhaps I would have tried a little harder as a Senior. Or not. Being 16 has its own logic. [↩]
Sorry if I make your eyes glaze over, but I had some trouble with my blog yesterday, and here is how I solved it.
Background: upgraded a WordPress plugin called Better WP Security, under its new name, iThemes Security Pro, and instantly my blog broke. I could no longer access my dashboard, could no longer make any changes to the blog, all that would happen would be an error message like this:
Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at [redacted]/wp-config.php:33) in [redacted]/wp-includes/pluggable.php on line 896
so of course I copied this error out, and Googled it. Unfortunately for me, I searched on the second phrase first, which led to instructions about fixing the code in pluggable.php
Silly me, I was too busy to read more. I opened my FTP program, opened the file pluggable.php and sure enough, the last line did not include a close tag. I added ?> and my blog was working again. I immediately went into plugins and deleted iThemes Security Pro, and as everything seemed fine, went back to my other tasks, considering the matter finished.
G3 case open
This morning, I noticed that the daily blog email didn’t get sent, and then noticed that my blog’s RSS feed reported an error. A few of my plugins were not working at all (such as my anti-spam plugin, Askimet, and others). Ru-oh!
It is usually because there are spaces, new lines, or other stuff before an opening <?php tag or after a closing ?> tag, typically in wp-config.php.
If the error message states: Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /path/blog/wp-config.php:34) in /path/blog/wp-login.php on line 42, then the problem is at line #34 of wp-config.php, not line #42 of wp-login.php. In this scenario, line #42 of wp-login.php is the victim. It is being affected by the excess whitespace at line #34 of wp-config.php.
If the error message states: Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /path/wp-admin/admin-header.php:8) in /path/wp-admin/post.php on line 569, then the problem is at line #8 of admin-header.php, not line #569 of post.php. In this scenario, line #569 of post.php is the victim. It is being affected by the excess whitespace at line #8 of admin-header.php.
Doh! My error message had told me the problem was in wp-config.php, and pluggable.php was the victim. I opened wp-config.php, and sure enough, there were 2 extra blank lines after the close tag. I don’t know how iThemes Security Pro added them, nor why, but once I deleted these two blank lines, my RSS feed validated through feed burner, etc. I trust the blog daily email will go out tonight, whether or not it will contain yesterday’s information too.
When building out products and features we do primarily two things: We listen to our community and we use data to make decisions. Today, we are announcing that there will be two changes to Flickr.
First, we are going to re-introduce the HTML embed option to the new photo experience. It will be live on Tue 3/18. This now gives you two great options to integrate Flickr content into your web experiences: with the Flickr Web Embeds and the popular HTML embed code that you asked for.
Secondly, we are announcing that we are deprecating the support for our built-in sharing options for WordPress, Blogger and LiveJournal on 3/25. Deprecating features is never an easy decision, but we have seen that all of these services combined are now adding up to less than one percent of daily share volume from Flickr.
I am saddened by this deprecation. The great website IFTTT does interact with Flickr to post to WordPress, I wonder will this upcoming change break my recipe for posting? Even my current Post To WordPress From Flickr recipe only works for photos uploaded recently, if I wish to post older images like the above parking lot scene, I have to use Flickr tools.
The Nigerian scam may seem like a scourge of the Internet age, but it actually predates email. Before we started getting all-caps proposals in our inboxes, con men in West Africa plied their trade by fax and paper letter. Some of the first scams to make their way to Western Europe arrived by telex in 1989 and 1990, when businessmen in Britain started hearing that a wayward tanker of Nigerian crude could have its cargo claimed for bargain prices — in exchange, of course, for some cash upfront. Before then, Nigerian fraudsters aimed their grifts at locals. One scheme was the “wash-wash,” a literal money-laundering in which the mark is shown a valise of supposed bills blackened with Vaseline and iodine and promised a cut if he pays for an expensive cleaning agent.
“Some of these guys came out and started perpetrating fraud,” says Andrew Apter, an Africa historian at U.C.L.A. “They used the language and insignias and letterhead of financial offices to lure people in.”
Apter has traced this sort of misuse of official iconography as far back as a century. When Nigeria was established as a colony under British rule in 1914, its first governor cracked down on scammers in fake uniforms who claimed to be collecting taxes on behalf of the empire. The advance-fee scam itself — whereby payments are extracted from a sucker who hopes to gain an enormous treasure — seems to have originated elsewhere. According to Robert Whitaker, a historian at the University of Texas, an earlier version of the con, known as the Spanish Swindle or the Spanish Prisoner trick, plagued Britain throughout the 19th century.
The Spanish Prisoner is a confidence trick originating in the late 16th century.
In its original form, the confidence trickster tells his victim (the mark) that he is (or is in correspondence with) a wealthy person of high estate who has been imprisoned in Spain under a false identity. Some versions had the imprisoned person being an unknown or remote relative of the mark.
Supposedly the prisoner cannot reveal his identity without serious repercussions, and is relying on a friend (the confidence trickster) to raise money to secure his release. The confidence trickster offers to let the mark put up some of the funds, with a promise that he will be financially rewarded when the prisoner returns, and perhaps also by gaining the hand of a beautiful woman represented to be the prisoner’s daughter. After the mark has turned over the funds, he is informed that further difficulties have arisen and more money is needed. With such explanations, the trickster continues to press for more money until the victim is cleaned out or declines to put up more funds.
The blog-father, Jason Kottke opines that the blog has died…
Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs. Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium.
In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids. Instead of launching blogs, companies are building mobile apps, Newsstand magazines on iOS, and things like The Verge. The Verge or Gawker or Talking Points Memo or BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post are no more blogs than The New York Times or Fox News, and they are increasingly not referring to themselves as such.
The primary mode for the distribution of links has moved from the loosely connected network of blogs to tightly integrated services like Facebook and Twitter.
As an aside, though I’ve never met Mr. Kottke, he had a lot to do with how this humble blog exists. I always had a website, since first getting a floppy-disc copy of Mosaic1 way back in the Stone Age, but never knew what to do with my site until I discovered Kottke.org. Ahh, blogging, I could do that. I never learned how to code HTML beyond the basics, but blogging only required basic HTML and CSS skills. Sadly, I’ve become an increasingly lazy blogger, posting less and less frequently, but I haven’t thrown in the towel yet.
He does have a point though, Twitter and Facebook and so forth consume an ever larger percentage of our collective online energies. Unfortunately, in my opinion, but then I’m over 402. Facebook especially is troubling to me as too often I hear of some arbitrary deletion of posting privileges, with minimal recourse. If you own your own data, you have much more control. Also if we only use Twitter and Facebook to communicate, we lose a large portion of our individuality – there becomes a vanilla plainness to the online world. On one side of the equation, no blink tags – yayyy; on the other, boring, shallow sites like BuzzFeed and HuffPost become the norm – meh.
I took the opportunity to clean up my blogroll, removing a few blogs that have died, and keeping a few dead blogs with the hope they resurrect. If you are reading this, and you have a compelling reason for me to add you to my blogroll, leave me a comment, and I’ll consider it.
in beta? or was that Netscape Navigator? Memory gets fuzzy [↩]