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Comment EyeTV on a Mac (Score 1) 536

I've really been pleased with my media center setup; and my doddering mother-in-law has no difficulties with it either.

I use:

  1. Elgato's EyeTV software, with an Elgato USB tuner card (supports ATSC, ClearQAM, so tunes HD cable channels and FTA HDTV). This gives me my DVR, which dumps ATSC video at full quality without even re-encoding (std. MPEG-2 stream)
  2. FrontRow, which comes with the Mac, to watch DVDs and my media library, including music. Supports anything you can get a QuickTime plugin for (which is almost anything now, even Theora), and can browse media as files *or* in iTunes
  3. Handbrake 0.94 (64bit) for ripping DVDs to media collection. Dealing with encrypted DVDs is made possible through VLC and Fairmount (more or less transparently - again, my mother-in-law does this).

Other than paying $600 for the Mac Mini itself, the only cost to this was the EyeTV tuner (which came with the DVR software). Very pleased with this, much better IMHO than my Media Center and MythTV experiences. I've also played with Boxee on OS X, which does everything pretty well, including netflix/hulu streaming. Very nice, though definitely still beta. At least they seem to be making better progress fixing bugs than the Myth folks.

Comment Re:Stop wasting our electricity, Fox Mulder (Score 1) 621

"Are we alone?" is shorthand for "Is our species the sole intelligent life in the universe?"

We just need to stop being dicks to each other.

I entirely agree. We could start by not assuming that what some people are passionate about is wasteful just because we don't care. I personally think that the SETI money could be better spent elsewhere, but I don't think that the search is silly, or even that they're going about it in the wrong way. I don't even disagree that the question is important.

I'm just a "clean your own house first" kind of guy - I'd rather see us (humanity) work to solve the problems we have where we still kill each other in huge numbers, allow some to starve while others have a great deal of surplus, and generally mismanage the natural resources available to us.

Otherwise, what would we tell an intelligent species: "hi, we're humans; we can't even take care of ourselves"?

Comment Re:Make them pay (Score 2, Insightful) 932

Family helps Family for free. It's called being related, not being retarded. I'm pretty sure your parents spent more raising your arrogant little behind than you could ever repay by doing the occasional reformat.

There's "helping", and then there's enabling. For example, I need to deal with a reformat/re-install about once a year for my mother. No biggy: she does pretty well, but just can't keep up with new threats, and simply isn't perfect. That's what family is for.

On the other hand, I refuse to help one of my cousins anymore, because he refused to follow my basic advice on being safe - he insists on using IE and Outlook Express, he disables his AV to "make installs go faster", he declines AV updates, he refuses to run without admin rights, etc.. If I keep bailing him out for free, I'm not helping anymore.

See, you can't eat your cake and still have it. If you really value me as family, you'll respect my skills and my advice, and you'll show it by trying to make it as unnecessary as possible for me to have to help you. If you refuse to do anything to make my life easier, you show that you don't respect my skills, so why should I waste them on you?

Comment Re:It won't take that long to embarrass somebody (Score 1) 181

Analogies to the no-fly list are flawed: the no-fly list is a policy maintained by people. What's at issue here is an automated "behavioral detection" system. When "foolproof" systems make a lot of noise on prominent people, those systems are "put under review", which basically results in crippling them to the point of uselessness to the tune of millions of dollars (or GBP, in this case).

However, even if I accept your analogy, the Kennedy fiasco did start down the path of neutering the no-fly list to the point that it's nearly useless. It doesn't happen suddenly and publicly, it happens because no one involved wants to be the guy that put the next prominent person on the list.

Taxpayers end up footing the bill for dozens of pointless systems -- things that were of dubious efficacy when they were conceived, and which have since been neutered to the point of absurdity.

Comment It won't take that long to embarrass somebody (Score 3, Interesting) 181

At some point, some government official will either be exposed to be pervert or some such, or will be wrongfully and horribly flagged as some sort of terrorist.

In fact, I'm willing to bet the European hacker community will take steps to ensure that such a thing happens. As soon as it does, there will be all sorts of running about to cripple the system to the point that it's inert, but oddly still very expensive.

Comment Re:Don't let those annoying facts get in the way (Score 1) 442

"people can't be bothered targeting us" isn't the best security policy.

Not by itself, of course not. Note how I mention several other security advantages immediately after that. But you do realize that lowering desirability of target is a key component of risk management, right?

Look, risk is "likelihood times impact". You can't really affect impact in most cases, but you can nearly always impact likelihood. Strong passwords make it less likely that someone will breach your system. Separation of duties makes it less likely that a single legitimate user will be the source of a compromise. Choosing something that requires unusual skills to attack (like a mainframe) reduces the likelihood people will even try.

And, choosing to use something that isn't worthwhile to attack reduces the likelihood that an attacker will go after you instead of someone else.

The only caveat is that, like any security decision, it can't stand on its own. You still need to practice defense in depth, you still need other security controls in place.

Comment Re:Don't let those annoying facts get in the way (Score 3, Insightful) 442

A shitty Linux admin is just as bad as a shitty Windows admin.


Linux -- really, the Unix family in general -- does have some security advantages over Windows. For example, lower desktop market share makes it less attractive (and, yes, that is a security advantage); a straightforward access control system makes it easier to harden; text-based config files make it easier to audit; etc.

However, security features don't matter if you don't use them. If the average idiot uses Linux, they only safety they have right now is that it's not being targeted especially actively. As soon as there are a few "useful" trojans out there, J Random User will happily enter his password at the sudo prompt to get the strip-poker game (or whatever) the malware is riding on.

This is only untrue if you have a professional administrating the machine, and disallowing stupid user tricks.

Comment Re:Nokia N810 (Score 1) 283

Yes, but it just does not have the same je nais se qua as the iPhone.

Hm, really? Personally, I returned my n810 - it was too fiddly. A jailbroken iPhone has so far been the only smart phone I can stand to use; I'm able to easily pick it up, do something useful in short order, and put it away again.

The attraction to the iPhone is partly novelty - it's the only touchscreen-only phone I've ever seen that's actually usable - but also partly that it's intuitive. Watching my wife and non-geek friends pick up the phone and immediately be productive has been amazing.

This is what Apple is very good at: finding the right places to sacrifice power and flexibility to increase utility for most users.

Comment Re:Here's a suggestion: (Score 1) 283

It's embarrassing to admit they're paying hundreds of dollars extra in order to purchase some plastic respect.

Ah, slashdot, home of the social over-simplification.

The iPhone is a fine smart phone. It's a decent phone, with a quite respectable OS and available set of applications. Apple is doing a shit job of managing the app store - which tends to happen when you have an artificial monopoly - but, that doesn't make the phone shit.

I'm sure there are people out there who buy iPhones because everyone else seems to have one. But inferring from this that the iPhone must suck is fallacious.

Comment Re:Take a moment and thank this guy (Score 1) 620

Support for his initiative is likely to be seen as support for so-called Christian values and the perverted/repressed view that nakedness is sex is sin -- not as support for civil liberties like not being searched at all without probable cause.

Funny, he's citing invasion of privacy as the main reason to object. Try not to assume that everything is always "sex is bad".

If we want to reinforce good behavior like this, you have to applaud the people who do the right thing.

Comment Re:The only patch for stupidity... (Score 1) 306

Once users learn whether they put in their password or not they can still see or not see the dancing squirrels

You're way too optimistic. Users will not learn because users don't care. No matter how much information you give people, no matter how much code signing you do - users will do whatever they have to do to get something they believe they want to work.

You can't stop this without initiating draconian "all code must be signed by a trusted cert or it won't run" - the iPhone does this, but the trade-off is that you can only get iPhone apps from Apple. (unless you hack your phone, which also removes any of the security advantage of the signing system).

We'll always have to allow unsigned, untrusted apps to run in some circumstances. And the user will happily click and enter their password or do a jig or whatever to allow those trojans to run.

Comment Re:It will be replaced. (Score 1) 859

They will revamp the program to just automatically generate a ticket to the owner of the vehicle instead.

I don't know much about the UK's legal system, but that's already routinely failed Constitutional tests in the US. Ticketing the owner of the car is not the same as ticketing the offender. In my home state, red light cameras were pulled based on this argument: I shouldn't be held responsible for someone running a red light in my car. I do agree that politicians can be very creative when it comes to revenue. I can easily imagine a state that requires people to biometrically identify themselves before driving, then tickets them for even minor offenses...

Comment The only patch for stupidity... (Score 1) 306

they are more than happy to key in their password for anything that asks, even if they don't know what they are doing. After all, they are on a Mac, they don't have virus protection because it doesn't need it, so how is something bad going to get on the system.

Unfortunately, the only patches for user stupidity are illegal. If you get caught.

OS-X has a pretty good balance between honestly trying to protect the user from doing stupid things and implementing a Vista-esque approach (i.e. so draconian that users find a way to turn it off entirely). You get asked for a password whenever something needs root equivalence.

But that's not going to help people who will do anything to see the dancing squirrels...

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