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Comment: Re:Yet it works for me - and you if you try (Score 1) 152

by _xeno_ (#48674515) Attached to: Xbox Live and PlayStation Networks Downed By Apparent Attack

Unless something has changed since less than a week ago, if you try and connect to Steam while Steam is down for any reason (say, a DDOS attack, like in this article), you will fail to authenticate and be left in a "logged out" state. At that point there's no way to activate offline mode because you can't connect.

If you were already logged into Steam and attempt to "go offline" it will attempt to authenticate with the Steam servers, and again - if Steam is down, that's the end of that.

This happened less than a week ago. That's not misinformation, that was me trying to open Steam on Saturday to check out the holiday sale.

Comment: Re:Yet it works for me - and you if you try (Score 1) 152

by _xeno_ (#48674305) Attached to: Xbox Live and PlayStation Networks Downed By Apparent Attack

I can guarantee you that the last time I tried to start Steam without any network connectivity it tried to connect, couldn't, and refused to start in that state. That was a couple of years ago, but it definitely used to be the case that the only way to get Steam to go into offline mode is to already be online. So now whenever I get ready to leave for vacation I make sure to take the laptop offline.

Likewise when Steam was offline this weekend (and it was only down for like a half hour), I would start Steam, it would go to "Connecting...", it would fail, it would bring up the login window with an empty password, and that was that. No way to login, no way to switch to offline mode. So it's possible that it saw the working network connection and decided that since it couldn't contact the Steam servers it wouldn't go to "offline" but I most certainly couldn't do it while it was out. (I think Steam was out in a weird way where the update servers were up and a few game servers were up, but the authentication and store servers were down.)

But I can guarantee you that there was no way to get into offline mode at that time. I suppose I could have tried unplugging my Internet connection but why would I have tried that when it's their servers that are down, not my Internet?

Comment: Re:Except Game Servers Aren't Down (Score 1) 152

by _xeno_ (#48674261) Attached to: Xbox Live and PlayStation Networks Downed By Apparent Attack

I checked. Steam doesn't have a status page, so you have to rely on Reddit threads. Steam was definitely actually down since other people couldn't get online either. You most certainly cannot start Steam in this state, there's no way to do it, it will be unable to authenticate because it can't contact the servers, so it'll demand you reenter your password. At this point there's now no way to get into offline mode because Steam can't get past the login.

In my past experience with Steam, the only way to get into Offline Mode is to first be online. Apparently you're supposed to know ahead of time when your Internet connection will die for a week.

Comment: Re:Except Game Servers Aren't Down (Score 1) 152

by _xeno_ (#48673867) Attached to: Xbox Live and PlayStation Networks Downed By Apparent Attack

How long a timeout? Because Steam was down just the other day and the way it reacted was dumping me to the login screen, requiring me to re-enter my Steam password despite it being "saved", and then failing to connect because it was down, at which point it quits.

To get Steam into Offline mode, you must first connect to Steam.

Comment: Lies & Damn Lies (Score 3, Insightful) 205

by Orne (#48666379) Attached to: The World Is Not Falling Apart

A wise politician one said, "Never let a crisis go to waste". If the public isn't agitated, they won't give up their liberties and control to the government.

Crime rates are down, yet cops are more militarized than ever. Police shootings are rare. Gun violence is down. College campus sexual assault rates are actually 0.61%. The earth is not warming in 20 years. There is no missing heat in the oceans. Hurricanes and tornado count are at a historical low. Unemployment counting those not looking for work is at a 40 year high. Inflation in food (not counted) is huge, yet commodities (gold / oil) are deflating. College debt is crippling high, but so is general credit card debt.

If you dig into the numbers behind the "official" numbers, everything is topsy turvy. That's why the public sees doom and gloom - everything they experience is counter to what we are being told, including articles saying "Don't panic".

Comment: Re:uh - by design? (Score 1) 163

by _xeno_ (#48664093) Attached to: Thunderbolt Rootkit Vector

I don't think Mac OS X even has a user-accessible BIOS. I know there's a "special" key combo you can hit to reset whatever they call their equivalent of CMOS settings (it's either NVRAM or PRAM and I have no clue what the difference is or why it matters). (I know this because there's another cute Mac bug that frequently hits my work MacBook where it will forget it has a built-in display because I turned it off while connected to a monitor, so you have to reset it to factory defaults to get it to realize "maybe I should turn on the laptop display.")

Ah, what the heck, I have the sucker sitting right next to me, let's see if you can disable it in ... "thu: no items." Oh.

(And I checked, you cannot access the EFI shell at all on new Macs. So even if it were possible to turn Thunderbolt off there, you can't access it anyway.)

Comment: Re:uh - by design? (Score 4, Informative) 163

by _xeno_ (#48662107) Attached to: Thunderbolt Rootkit Vector

Well, yes, if you can rip open the computer case and install new hardware, you have complete control over the hardware and that's to be expected.

Thunderbolt is more like USB to the user - it's a thing you use to connect untrusted devices to your system. You wouldn't expect that plugging in a USB thumbdrive would magically own your system (well, maybe you should, because it's happened in the past, but I think it's fair to say that it shouldn't). You'd think that plugging in a random Thunderbolt device would be designed to be safe. Apparently not: apparently Thunderbolt is unsafe by design.

The one mitigating factor is that literally no one uses Thunderbolt for anything, so it's not like anyone's likely to be coming across random compromised Thunderbolt devices. Discovering a Thunderbolt device at all would be out of the ordinary.

Comment: Re:No big red button? (Score 4, Informative) 212

by Shinobi (#48646329) Attached to: Cyberattack On German Steel Factory Causes 'Massive Damage'

Data invariance, even if you can somehow implement it properly on a hardware level, does not protect you if it's the execution pattern that is the attack method for example.

As an example, rapid power cycling/power state change due to a program swiftly being shunted between CPU intensive and idle threads, etc can cause power surges that can damage the PSU or the motherboard or even the CPU(as voltage regulators etc move onboard, they become ever more vulnerable to this), and for all intents and purposes the data input to the program will be fully valid and unchanged. Excessive head parking on a mechanical HD can cause the HD to become faulty. Frequent standby/active cycles on monitors can kill them fairly rapidly.

As for the emergency shutdown, nowadays, with modern equipment, the big red button and the emergency shutdown button in the control program do the same thing: Send a signal to the correct circuit and halt all operation. In some heavy machinery that means just cutting all power, in others it disengages pneumatic valves and thus engaging mechanical brakes etc etc. It depends on what kind of machinery it is.

Comment: Re:No big red button? (Score 3, Insightful) 212

by Shinobi (#48646063) Attached to: Cyberattack On German Steel Factory Causes 'Massive Damage'

"Sure. But software shouldn't be able to make hardware damage itself.

Also, designing something like a steelworks without some kind of hardware-level override is so stupid it borders on criminal."

As long as software can make the hardware do something, it can make it damage itself.

As for the damage, it was probably the emergency shutdown that caused the damage(i.e, what you incorrectly label hardware-level override), since it does a direct quick stop, without following the proper, slower and safer procedures for shutdown.

Comment: Re:So to prevent tornados... (Score 2) 99

by tlambert (#48643887) Attached to: Birds Fled Area Before Tornadoes Appeared

Predict - maybe. I don't think the birds could have prevented the tornadoes if they had tried.

Get with the program: tornados come to places that birds aren't. Force the birds to stay, the tornados can't come to the area. African and European swallows would work equally well for this purpose. It's like magnets... :)

Comment: Re:Fun with Cult Missionaries (Score 1) 245

A friend and his wife once made super cookies in the form of "666' and served them up with cans of ice-cold Coke. The Mormon missionaries looked at each other and said "they sensed a spirit of confrontation" and left. They died laughing after they left. They never received additional visits.

A missionary friend of mine would have politely thanked them for the "999" cookies, and then spent as long as they'd tolerate talking about the LDS church. It's wrong to point at religious people, and claim that they have no sense of humor about themselves.

Comment: Why it's Microsoft's problem (Score 1) 245

I don't understand why this is Microsoft's problem. Why would you complain to Microsoft about this and not your attorney general? If someone is selling fake Rolexes on the street, you don't complain to Rolex..

Why it's Microsoft's problem

Because the people being scammed do not have standing before the court to make a claim of fraudulent use of trademark on behalf of Microsoft. Only Microsoft, as holder of the trademark, has the right to make such a claim.

Until Microsoft makes the claim, if it has received even one notification of the fraudulent use of its trademark, subsequent use of its trademark without a complaint by Microsoft can legally constitute tacit permission, and enough of that, and the trademark becomes a generic term (like "asprin", which was a trademark of AG Bayer, until they failed to defend it from being applied generically).

I imagine that Microsoft actually doesn't care if you get scammed (and would actually prefer it, so long as it mostly impacts Windows XP users, and not Windows 7/8 users), but they don't want to risk losing their trademark on the name "Microsoft" over it.

One of the chief duties of the mathematician in acting as an advisor... is to discourage... from expecting too much from mathematics. -- N. Wiener