Just some food for thought…

JROppenheimer LosAlamos

I wasn’t planning on another piece about Apple v. The FBI. But here goes…

For all those pundits, wags, celebrities, politicians, and now Rabbis speaking out and telling Apple that they should decrypt the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, I submit this.

Apple is apparently applying the thought Robert Oppenheimer had after he helped create the atomic bomb.

When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.
– J. Robert Oppenheimer

I believe this quote is often paraphrased to;

Just because you CAN do a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD do a thing.

I’ve lived my life using that paraphrase as a test for certain actions. I look at it as a cautionary signpost for all scientists and researchers.

Project t virus by linkin368 d3gt57g

Just because you can modify the DNA of influenza to deliver a genetic update to all the people of the world… should you? What about murphy’s law? Can you really limit the unintended consequences? 

OR is it simply better to recognize that never creating the technology is the best course of action?

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All these people saying Apple should crack the phone, have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s not an easy task, even for Apple. Cracking encryption isn’t what you see in the movies. 

You don’t just plug a widget into a port, have some dialog about how cool you are and then hear a beep as the NSA computers start spilling all their information onto your impossibly small storage device.

At this point it’s unclear if the iPhone in question is using something as simple as a 4 digit code. It’s likely, but depending on the IOS version being used, the phone could be locked using a phrase.

If there’s a passphrase the odds of success hacking it with a brute force attack drop precipitously with each character added to the passphrase length.

James comey fbi

The brute force attack that the FBI is describing is crude and there is no guarantee that if they win in court, forcing Apple to be their bitch, that when they finally get into the phone there won’t be a nasty little application that has encrypted all the files the FBI wants using an entirely different algorithm, from another manufacturer.  If that’s the case, is the FBI going to get another court order? Probably not, because this is about the FBI making an example. Apple just happens to be the biggest target. 

It’s just as likely, this Jihadi fucker was using a messaging application that wiped the messages 5 minutes after they were read.

Federal and state fbi agent

If the guy was at all concerned about security, He probably turned off all the Apple Tracking software, I know I did right after Edward Snowden blew the whistle.

I’m not a criminal, but I value my privacy and am willing to forego my phone being able to tell me where the nearest Häagen-Dazs is, to maintain my privacy.

This means that Apple providing a custom operating system to disables the automatic wipe on the phone and allow unlimited access to the phone’s password system is likely not going to get the FBI anything more than they already have based on cell tower records.

By the way, because of the number of towers in the San Bernardino area, cell tower data can pinpoint the movements of this Jihadi asshole to within a couple hundred feet or less.

The NSA Actually Has A Program Called SKYNET

So the FBI is lying right from the get-go, when they say they want access to the phone so they can figure out where this Jihadi and his diseased rancid whore of a wife, were before, during the shooting, and after. 

The cell tower records would already provide that information and if the guy turned off his phone while visiting some nefarious underworld figure. Or dropped it in a Faraday bag or cage…

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Then the FBI would still get nothing from the phone because at that point the phone would have been cut off from the cell tower or any GPS information and likewise wouldn’t have been able to transmit any of that information.

But we know that the FBI has nine OTHER phones they want to force Apple to help them unlock. 

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The problem here is that Apple has never created the software to unlock or hack their devices.

Why should they?

Apple tells you, “don’t lose your password, we cant help you if you do.”

So they have a secure device, and they can insure the device’s security because they’ve never created any software to undo their encryption or their locking mechanism.

Just because you CAN do a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD do a thing.

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Dear Apple customer… “If you loose your password, you can wipe the phone and start over. We strongly recommend you have the data backed up. Apple provides the iCloud service for this purpose.“

It’s recently come to light, that the FBI ordered the San Bernardino County IT department to change the password on the iCloud account and therefore broke a link that could, with Apple’s help, have gained access to the phone.

Now the FBI wants to use a court order to force Apple to UNFUCK their fuckup. But that’s not the end game.

The end game is that the FBI wants to force manufacturers to build government backdoors into all devices. 

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The FBI is using “terrifying terrorists” and criminals, to spook congress and the courts into passing legislation that mandates government access be built into all machines. They and their supporters are using the time honored B.S. line;

For the safety and security of the public…” or that old favorite “We do this for THE CHILDREN

I’m not sure I believe in the slippery slope argument but I do think it’s a very short walk to losing rights that we’ll never get back.

That walk begins with statements that start out, “It’s worth losing a little privacy, or freedom, or changing the laws, or, or, or,  for safety.” see; The Patriot Act

 When I see our government behaving this way, and I hear people saying, “it’s just a little invasion,” I can’t help but think of the poem The Hangman.


I could see a time in the future when it’s illegal for you not to have your phone on your person.

After all, the government would only want to keep track of your movements and communications to insure your safety… Right?

Back doors in our devices are, I think just a stepping stone to full surveillance.

You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide.

Obviously I’m missing something.

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The FBI went to a judge and apparently whined they couldn’t access the data in one of the San Bernardino Terrorist’s phones. 

A Judge ordered Apple to assist the FBI.

Apple responded that the programming doesn’t exist (by design) which would allow even them (Apple) to break into the phone.

Then Trump gets in on the action and says we need to get the information on that phone.

To which I say;

NO WE DON’T

I’d like to tell Trump to be quiet and let the adults talk.

Just because the information happens to exist on a phone, doesn’t mean that we have to access it. If the data were written on paper that had been burned, the FBI wouldn’t have access to it would they? Data locked on a phone is essentially the same.

The FBI does have other phones belonging to the San Bernardino Terrorists. They have access to all the bills and phone records of calls made to and from each of the phones in question.

Along with that information the FBI no doubt has access to all the text messages, or at least the source and destination phone numbers associated with those text messages. Just as I have that information for SMS messages printed on my cell phone bill every month.

What the FBI doesn’t have is information that may have been sent from that iPhone 5C to other iPhones, iPads, or Macs. This is because the information was sent via data channels instead of via SMS.

To quote another famous phrase, “What does it matter at this point anyway?

The FBI has the terrorist’s computers, the odds are damn high that any communications carried out on the phone were replicated on the computers.  These terrorists are dead on the pavement, they’ve been disavowed by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. 

This strikes me as nothing more than an end run around the issues of encryption by the FBI. 

Apple doesn’t have the software to break into the phone, because creation of that software would eventually mean that the software would get out. After all we all know how secure Data at the Office of Personnel Management was. How about the IRS data? Or the Healthcare.GOV data? Or, Or, Or…

Once a program capable of cracking the encryption on an iPhone or Samsung phone is out in the world, no-one has privacy.

This is the fundamental argument Tim Cook of Apple has been making all along.

Apple is very explicit in their encryption warnings on their computers. If you loose this password and you don’t have a recovery key we can’t help you. My computer’s drive is encrypted, I have the key stored and I know the password. But I don’t expect Apple to be able to decrypt my drive, or my iPhone, or my iPad. Even if I was stupid enough to loose or forget the passwords…

I don’t want Apple to be able to decrypt my stuff ever!

Beyond that is this point.

MIT recently reported there were something like 586 different encryption programs freely available from a variety of sources. So even if Apple compromises it’s principals (I hope to God they don’t) Criminals will simply choose an alternative encryption technique.

When that happens, what’s the FBI going to do? Bitch, piss, and moan their way into making a manufacturer in Switzerland, for example build them a backdoor?  If that day comes I’d be curious to see the response the FBI gets.

According to the LA Times article Farook disabled the icloud backup 6 weeks prior to the attack. It’s entirely likely that Farook disabled the GPS function and deleted messages as well. So even if the FBI gains access, it’s questionable if there will be any useful data recovered.

Regardless, the damage done to American privacy will be done.

Is it just me?

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Or have corporate web sites become more obtuse?

We’ve all heard the message on hold. “Most of your questions can be answered by going to our website www.blahdeblahblahblah.com” 

Some of us fume, (I’m one of the fumers) I hear that message and think, “If I had found what I was looking for on your daffy website, I wouldn’t have dug up your freakin phone number from your website to call you.”

The Hitchhiker s Guide to the Galaxy

I’m reminded of the passage in Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy between Arthur Dent and the Foreman of the construction crew ready to destroy Arthur’s house.

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.” 
― Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Indeed websites appear to bury the lead more frequently now than in the past. 


Design and Stylistic Rant

I632hexq l’ve decided that the next website I build I’m going to put all the contact information, frequently asked questions, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and any other useful information behind an image of a disused lavatory door with a sign that says “Beware of the Leopard” (That’s my web design idea, call it copyrighted). Optionally, I may add another layer of annoyance by forcing the intrepid web user to open a filing cabinet then simulate flickering of light to make reading the information (displayed as either yellow on grey or red on grey characters) stored in the filing cabinet, a much more challenging thing to do before your first cup of coffee. 

With all these designers with their media/ design/ art school diplomas in web design, you’d think that at some point some professor would have discussed that a significant portion of the population exhibit some level of red-green or blue-yellow colorblindness and a larger portion of the population are shade blind as well. 

Which means that putting a 10 point HelveticaNarrow font in white on a light grey page, is going to look to a lot of folks like a blank page.

I’m not shade or color blind, and stuff like that is annoying as hell to me. All it takes is an allergy day, a cold, or dry eyes and now my lovelies, your web page is useless to pretty much everyone. 

I shouldn’t have to open your page in an HTML editor to be able to see what’s on it.

Just Sayin…


Anyhow.

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My finger is hovering over a schedule time button on the Apple webpage.

I’ve spent 10 minutes thrashing through pages intended to answer every question and provide every service EXCEPT something that must take place in the physical world.

Why not make it simple? How about putting a button Front and Center that says SCHEDULE a visit with an Apple Genius? How about putting that right at the bottom of the opening page?

<sigh> It’s the age of obfuscation.

I’m finally on the page, I think, that will allow me to complete the task that I thought would be simple and only take a minute.

Hovering over the button, I ask myself why is it that I can ONLY schedule on a single day a week out? Why can’t I schedule an appointment on any of the other days that week? Why can’t I schedule an appointment 2 weeks out?

Why is Apple dictating essentially that I’ll have to make a special trip to their store and not be able to combine that trip with other things I might already have on my agenda?

My finger is still hovering. the first appointment is 2:15 in the afternoon, I’d really like a morning appointment, I don’t like being in Apple stores in the afternoon or evening.

Flightline

Then it hits me;

I DON’T LIKE BEING IN APPLE STORES AT ALL!

But the morning is always preferable to afternoon.

I slowly come to realize that while I like Apple products, I can’t stand the noise, crowding, confusion, and general disarray that every single Apple store has become. I’ve actually been to shooting ranges that were quieter than most Apple Stores.

It’s like being in an ‘80s disco bar.

Everyone is yelling to be heard, there’s continuous BOOMING driving base coming from the PA system and at least half a dozen different sound sources all around the room. People are shoving to get to whatever bright and shiny, they want to play with, and they’re rude about it.

4246303 683742 cocktail a mix of various drinks sometimes alcoholic drinks

At least in a bar, I’d have a drink that would be acting as an anesthetic. 

Alas, Apple stores, for all their other bar-like similarities are lacking the one critical component that would allow me to justify shouting over music which is indistinguishable from being on the flight line of a aircraft carrier during a fighter scramble. 

Whiskey!

The only bar I’ve ever enjoyed with noise as loud as the Apple store, was a place where you could get a drink and a BLOW-JOB at the same time.

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The volume of the music was to hide the grunts, shouts and “Rebel Yells” of various guys blowing their loads down willing throats. In other words, the pain in my ears was offset by alcohol and nasty pleasure.

I’m spending premium dollars in an Apple Store. I don’t need Vivaldi but I would like to conduct business at some decibel level below 200. I’d like to literally be able to hear myself think.

The 2:15 appointment has vanished. 2:45 is available.

My finger still hovers over the button.

Nah… I’ll wait.

THANKS APPLE!

Ya know, ALL I WANTED to do was play a couple of songs that I own that are loaded on my phone while I had a 10 minute break between things.

BUT that was not to happen.

WHY? because of this…

So then I tried on my iPad and got the same screen. GRRRRR! I just want to play my music why am I seeing this? What does it mean? Why is it going on and on and on and on? Why is there no message, no instruction, no prompt, NOTHING?

30 minutes later my phone still hadn’t changed or give me any indication about what the hell I was supposed to do or what the machine was doing. I reset both machines then tried again.

Same screen,

Reset

Same Screen

I actually started thinking Apple may have given me a perfect reason NOT to upgrade my Phone or iPad. After all, if I can’t access the 30GB of music on either device, then I can FLUSH music from the devices, and dump iTunes from the iPhone and iPad.

Then I wouldn’t need additional storage because without functional iTunes the music is useless and for that matter so is any movie that would be played through iTunes.

After letting it run in the background on my phone for over 1 hour the damn thing finally gave me a prompt that said something like….

Do you want to start a free subscription to Apple Music or Go to your Music.

Really?

You blocked my accessing my local music storage for over an hour while your stupid screen tried to figure out if it should present two freaking buttons?

AND this you’re doing after I already answered this same question months ago, and after I’ve been successfully using phone and pad to play music.

Obviously, something updated but didn’t bother to preserve my previous answers.

Nonetheless, my few minutes of listening to music was trashed, and every time I accessed my phone and pad, for text messages, or calendar stuff I had to deal with this stupid screen.

Apple, you’re better than this. I’m begging you, don’t make iTunes on the iPhone and iPad as hated as it is on the Mac.

Whee it’s here! Whaaat?

 

NewImageApple announced, as expected the new iPhone(s) on Tuesday.

The new phones were in line with what a month of media leaks said they were going to be, and there were no surprises.

Looks like the pundits, wags and Wall Street are not impressed.

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I guess I understand that they wanted to be WOWED again. In their disappointment they’re perhaps being unduly snarky. 

The new iPhones are beautiful, all of them.

I don’t really give a shit about what the pundits and wags from PCMagazine say (I haven’t paid them any attention at all since they savaged the Newton and then embraced the Palm Pilot. WTF? I liked my Newton a hell of a lot more than any Palm or Handspring device I ever owned.)

My bottom line is that I need a new phone… It’s not just that I want a new phone, my current phone is full of so much bloatware from my carrier that it’s almost useless. 

I normally only use 6 features on my phone.

I call people… sometimes.

I like having a calendar

I use text & messaging.

I will sometimes use the phone to look something up on the web, but since I often have a computer or tablet at hand I’ll go to one of those before I use the phone.

I take pictures with my phone (if it’s the only or most convenient camera I have at hand.)

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My carrier seems to think that I want games, and internet radio, and more games, and to be reminded to restart my phone and billing reminders and honestly a bunch of shit that I don’t even have a clue about. More importantly, its stuff I have no desire to learn about.

The stuff they think I need cannot be removed. Unless I play their “lets unlock the phone game“. This is apparently as “easy” as giving birth to Rhinoceros twins… through my penis. Frankly I don’t have the time.

This unlocking procedure involves me contacting them, them looking up some information, me winking and nudging at the appropriate times, them asking questions, me answering questions, them sending me a code, me contacting them when I receive the code, them acknowledging the code, and my phone is unlocked.

Here’s an idea… How about them just sending me the damn code when the phone is paid for, and the contract expires. Better yet why don’t they simply remotely unlock the phone at the end of the contract?

I guess that’s just too easy…

My current phone is Android based.

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That was fine and dandy for me until I realized due to carrier interference I wasn’t getting the latest bug fixes and updates.

The reason wasn’t that the updates weren’t available it was because it takes time for the carrier to bundle all their bloatware into the version of the operating system & then push it out to it’s users. 

I hate living with crashes. I hate having my phone seize up for no reason when I’m trying to make or receive a call. I hate getting text messages 2 days after they’ve been sent. And I really hate that because of all the crap running on my phone all the time that my battery life is inconsistent as hell. One day the battery will last 8 hours (idle) and the next day it will last 3 hours (idle). But while I’m not using the phone and it’s supposedly idle. There’s some other process or processes just cranking away doing god only knows what. No matter how many times I terminate individual or ALL processes they restart and there’s no explanation as to why they’re running or what they’re doing.

Thankfully, there’s nothing on the bills indicating nefarious activities. The antivirus application running on the phone says nothing is going out or coming in. For all the world it looks like the phone is senile and just muttering to itself.

This has led me to the decision to buy an unlocked phone. NO CONTRACT.

I’ll jump ship to the next carrier, and the next, based on saving money, better coverage, or better customer service.

It’s that simple and this is why for so many years the cellular carriers fought the ability to take your phone number with you.

If a customer can take their phone number, their phone, and have no contract to boot. The onus is squarely on the shoulders of the cellular provider to provide not just mediocre service but to compete! They must provide excellent telephone service and their customer service has to be exemplary as well.

All of this leads me to the purchase of a new phone. 

The iPhone 5s is predictable in it’s sameness. The iPhone 5c is fun with it’s colors and it’s specs are remarkably similar to the 5s. Both phones are incremental improvements on the iPhone 5 itself. Perhaps with the iPhone 5 Apple reached the pinnacle of form dictating function.

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The Galaxy phones are beautify done, but they’re big. Too big to fit in my front pocket and we all know that if I have one in my back pocket I’m going to sit on it and snap that large expanse of glass right in half.

For me, the iPhone is just about the right size. I can slip it in a pocket, I can carry it in my existing holster. It’s got all the functions and applications that I want and I already have an app store account because of my iPad and computer.

Moreover I intend to OWN the phone from the get-go. I don’t intend to allow bullshit applications to reside on MY device. I’ll have the ultimate say. if I want to delete something I will.

I have considered the Galaxies I also was curious about the MotoX.

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As I mentioned the Galaxies are too big. The MotoX (build your own) is AT&T only at this time. I have no desire to ever darken the door of an AT&T store or see their logo again. We had a falling out several years ago and I plan to keep that nasty divorce final.

I was interested in the Moto X precisely because I could in theory build my own. The ability to customize the color combinations is cool. To be able to build one with a walnut back cover and choose other elements of the phone to make it uniquely mine is attractive. However it’s not attractive enough to make me go back to AtT&T

So I’m going to play with the iPhone when they hit the stores… OH HELL NO not the DAY they hit the stores, I’d have to crawl over salivating 18 to 25 year olds all of whom want to buy one, yet none of whom can afford it.

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I’ll wait a couple of days, until the youngsters have drooled and cooed. Then I’ll walk in ready to do business.

I plan to look at both the phones the 5s and 5c. There are slight differences… Fingerprint sensor, better camera functions, processor chips etc. 

For me it’s going to boil down to bang for buck.

I’ll probably go for the 5s due to the processor horsepower. 

I’d like to see an iPhone last as long as my Macs do.

Typically I get 4 -7 years out of a Mac on average. I’m thinking that the better processor may enable me to keep and use the phone by upgrading IOS versions longer. Only time will tell. 

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That’s a key issue for me personally. I want bug fixes and OS improvements on a regular ongoing basis. Apple provides that through IOS, Google/Android doesn’t.

I’ve been through a Blackberry, and two different Android phones.

In a very real way, I’m looking forward to going home to iPhone.

I’m sure my disentanglement from Google and Android will cause some bumps in the road with the attendant swearing.

But in the end fingers crossed, I’ll have a happier, simpler user experience.

That is what we want right? 

Ubiquitous technology that we don’t have to think about using?

I know at this point in my life that’s exactly what I want…

Happy Sunday

TimeMachine

I’m cleaning up another mess of my own making.

I was in a hurry the other day and I shutdown my computer while it was “Cleaning Up” after a backup to one of my drives.

I was a “BAD BOY”. I figured “cleaning up” was just deleting old outdated files and that by executing a shutdown and letting the computer take a full minute to do so would give the backup time to write a file that would save it’s place and I could do what I needed to do. Like go try to make some money.

I was wrong… Not only was I wrong I was very wrong. It corrupted the backup and now I’ve gotta wait for the backup to be deleted and recreated. Oh Joy!

Don’t get me wrong. I actually like Apples Time Machine.

Albeit less so in the Mountain Lion version than I did in the Snow Leopard version. 

Snow Leopard just freakin worked! never a problem in 5 solid years of operation and really what more can you ask of a backup program? I mean it did it’s job, it was quiet about it, and never once failed to get me the data I needed to restore. I always gave it a 10 out of 10.

The Mountain Lion version is far less reliable.

I find myself often correcting problems that should never have occurred. As I have today…

Not really a big deal per se but annoying.

In this particular case because I’ve lost faith in the backup routine I have the system backing up to 3 different drives. Two of the drives are network drives and the third is a little USB3 1TB pocket drive from WD. 

The really annoying thing is that if one of the backups reports an error, rather that cycling to the next drive sometimes Time Machine will simply stop backing up altogether.

This results in a situation like today when I found that the last backup had actually completed at 2:45am on Thursday.

I miss the old Time Machine but this one is what I’m dealing with so I suck it up and deal with it.

I’m hoping that the next version of OSX “Mavericks” has addressed this problem and that they’ve fixed some other issues they have with the built-in email program.

I like the built-in program better than I like Outlook. It’s a usability thing for me. Outlook is just fine but some of the things that Outlook does are really not that Mac friendly.

I gotta say, I really LIKE Gigabit ethernet. The backup claims it will be complete in approximately one hour. That’s 112.46GB of data. Damn fast, by comparison to 100MB.

I’ve got to find a nice 16port Gigabit ethernet switch and replace my 100mb switch in the wiring closet. I had the house wired with CAT6 and many of the devices on my network are Gigabit capable. They’re being throttled down by the slow switch.

Tuesday is the big day.

We’ll hear and see the new iPhones and know when to line up outside our Apple stores to purchase them! I think the President is speaking about Syria around the same time.

I’ll be watching the Apple presentation.

I’m not really interested in the Presidents justification for attacking another country. Yeah the use of sarin is wrong but it’s an internal situation between the government of Syria and the rebels against that government.

It’s none of our country’s business until the UN or one of our allies asks for our help with the situation. 

I’ve said it before. If the world wants us to become Peace Keepers fine. The world should pay for our services NOT the American Taxpayers. 

Also our Military men & women should be getting damn good salaries for our peace keeping actions. You know, living wages not salaries below the poverty line.

But I realize doing what I’m suggesting would legitimize a mercenary force. And why should the UN actually PAY for services when they can get them for free?

Off to go do some other things then I’ll catch up on the news…

It’s a nice lazy Sunday here in the mountains. Hope yours is as nice where ever you are.