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Comment Shoe Bomber isn't why you have to take shoes off (Score 1) 325

Sure, the TSA's "be afraid, be very afraid" and "be compliant sheep" commercials while you're waiting in line tell you that, but they were making people take their shoes off at lots of airports before the shoe bomber. Why? Because lots of mens' dress shoes have metal shanks in them, and they set off metal detectors a lot, so they were slowing down lines dealing with them. By making everybody take their shoes off before that, they could avoid the problem, just like making people take their belts off avoids the delays from large belt buckles setting off metal detectors. The shoe bomber was just an excuse to expand the rule to everybody.

Before they started doing it, I tended to wear Teva sandals, which are all non-metallic, and I've lived in places where lots of people wear flipflops, but the airports that had randomly started doing the "it's always been the rule" rule about taking shoes off would sometimes make us take our shoes off anyway, even before the shoe bomber.

Comment Alarm-B-Gone! (Score 1) 153

It's not much different from one of those TV-B-Gone remote controls that turn of TVs, except they're programmed to run through all the common TV shutoff codes and he figured out which one he needed for his particular device. (They're basically just a microcontroller, IR LED, battery, and switch.)

As far as "there's an app for that" goes, most of the TV remote control apps I've seen cost a few dollars, just because they can, and because Apple encourages you to charge money to use their app store.

Comment False Positives and Dogs (Score 1) 153

My downstairs apartment neighbor has a dog. Always barks when I'm going up or down the stairs, sometimes before.

I used to live in a house with a driveway that was right next to my neighbor's, separated only by a low fence and a few feet of grass. The dog was usually outside, and considered my driveway to be part of his territory, so he'd bark if I went out to the car or drove up and got out of it.

Comment Evil Things RDRAND Could Do (Score 3, Informative) 566

Yes, RDRAND could do evil things. It could go play Towers of Hanoi when you execute it. It could Halt and Catch Fire. It could email your MAC address to the KGB. So could any other instruction, if Intel wanted to be malicious, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the register pool.

If the NSA has convinced Intel to do evil things with RDRAND, the most likely one would be to hand out low-quality entropy when claiming that it's high-quality. It's still useful, and like any entropy source, it shouldn't be the only entropy source you use, and you shouldn't use it without hashing it together with a bunch of other hopefully-not-broken entropy. But it's still useful, and as somebody said, the NSA isn't your only enemy.

Especially when you're starting up a machine (physical or virtual), you really need good entropy and you don't have a lot of sources available yet. If you don't trust RDRAND, or even if you do, hash it together with some secret password and the clock and whatever else you've got.

Comment You missed the Golden Age Pulps, I guess (Score 1) 322

Somebody at Worldcon said that the circulation of paper magazine SF is down to something like 20,000 copies/month, from millions back in the day. Short stories work differently from books, and the choices are pretty much to do them in magazines, or in anthologies, or now the internet, but it's a tough market. (And short story writers are getting paid far less per word today, adjusted for inflation, than back in the 50s. The going rate is under 10c/word, while the 3c/word the old guys used to get would be maybe 30c-$1 in today's money.)

Comment Books also have better pictures and audio (Score 1) 322

There are exceptions - "2001: A Space Odyssey" was a better movie than book (even without drugs :-) and "Star Wars" (the original non-re-edited one) was too. But for the most part, the visual effects and sound are a lot better when you're reading a book and playing them inside your head than when some movie producer with a finite budget tries to interpret them.

Comment How can you not read a Wordstar 1.0 floppy? (Score 1) 440

All these mechanisms have their limitations, and if you've ever tried to do real-world data collection from a wide-ranging group of people who have data in random formats, it's a mess. People used to send me tapes in VMS Backup format, or with a duct-tape label indicating which tape it was and an Nth-generation photocopy of what some of the fields on the tape were, or 8" floppies in RSX-11 format. I've got useful data on Sun cartridge tapes, ZIP drives, and several generations of floppies, not that I've got readers for all of them (or ways to plug the readers into my current computers.) My department at $DAYJOB had the last 800-bpi 9-track tape drive in my building 20+ years ago; these days I don't know anybody with a 1600- or 6250-bpi tape drive, though I suspect there are some here in Silicon Valley besides the Computer History Museum and Digibarn.

Data formats rot. Hardware formats rot. The only way to keep the stuff is to keep copying onto newer media, and keep extensive documentation.

Comment X-Don't-Wiretap-Me-,-Bro!: (Score 1) 202

Yeah, that'll work.

Protecting your messages with crypto is a start, and using traffic mixers like Tor and Mixmaster to resist traffic analysis, but it's a hard job when the Bad Guys have Moore's Law on their side and unlimited unaccountable budgets and politicians who want to keep it that way.

Comment Big Government is a Right-Winger thing (Score 1) 202

Look, you right-wing trolls like to talk about how liberals and progressives want big government, but we're dealing with Bush's Homeland Security Mafia here, and the right-wing Drug War, and the right-wing Big Military-Industrial-Complex which goes conquering other countries on behalf of Big Oil and Hating Foreigners. And you guys talk about "Intellectual Property" like it's as sacred a thing as owning real dirt property that we stole from the Indians, so the Copyright Police are as much your fault as they are the liberals' fault. And if Obama were actually a liberal, we'd have some Hopey Changey Stuff and the warrantless wiretappers and Gitmo torturers would be in jail, instead of him telling his Justice Department to defend the Bush Administration policies.

Comment You secure it with Crypto, not Guns. (Score 1) 202

You and your friends don't have enough guns to outgun the NSA (who are typically not armed), much less the FBI, Pentagon, and Copyright police. If you want your data not to get wiretapped, you need to use crypto, end-to-end, and use various traffic analysis obfuscation services in the middle, and get enough people doing it to have some actual cover traffic (because being the one person using an anonymity service doesn't do the job.)

Comment I had to stop using them :-) (Score 1) 290

For a few years I tended to use "linksys" as my mobile data ISP, and from my apartment I can usually see 5-10 other wifi nodes, so if my DSL was down or my wifi router was hosed, I could borrow from a neighbor, and vice versa. But when 802.11g came out, and especially by the time 802.11n came out, most of the wifi modems started strongly encouraging users to set up authentication; I don't think I can connect to any of my neighbors' networks any more. (And I eventually had to get 802.11n because the signals seem to be enough stronger that my laptop connections would drop if I was in the dining room where my neighbors' routers would drown out my 802.11g.)

Since then coffee shops have become much more reliable sources of connectivity than random linksys boxes ever were, and I've got data on my phone so I can check email if I have to.

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