Category Archives: technology

Windows malware as a romance

Security updates for Windows are starting to sound more like  romance novels.

This week’s offerings:

MS17-010: Security Update for Microsoft Windows SMB Server:(4013389)

Eternal Blue

Eternal Champion

Eternal Romance

Eternal Synergy

Wanna Cry

Eternal Rocks

I’m speculating this series is about two immortal system administrators who are sad (blue), become champions of the downtrodden network users in the second volume, and find one another and have a budding romance in the third. In the fourth novel, after a constant tease in the first three, the two engage in some intimacy, then experience great regrets in the next novel, and find their romance on the rocks in the last.

It could be more interesting than the “Twilight” series. While the Twilight series took place in Forks, Washington, the Eternal Blue series takes place in Redmond, Washington, which has fewer trees but far more computers and smart phones.

License agreement as literature

George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm (August, 1945) has 29,966 words.

Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (October, 1953) has 46,118 words.

Apple’s  “Apple Developer Program License Agreement” (June, 2017) has 42,993 words.

In terms of plot, setting, and character, the license agreement is no match for either of the former two works. But all three could be classed as dystopian.

iPhone 6 Plus vs. iPhone 7 Plus

A quick comparison of the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 7 Plus following a casual stroll around a lake after Thanksgiving dinner.

The original iPhone had a 960 x 720 pixel camera, which means the iPhone 6 Plus camera, at 3264 x 2448 pixels, and iPhone 7 Plus camera, at 4032 x 3024 pixels, are essentially either 11.6 or 17.6 original iPhone cameras at once. As carrying around 17.6 cameras seemed inconvenient, we (me) took a couple of photos with my iPhone 6 Plus, then snatched someone else’s iPhone 7 Plus to take more photos.

The iPhone 6 Plus photo:

Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 6 Plus.
Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 6 Plus. Full size image.

The iPhone 7 Plus photo:

Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 7 Plus.
Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 7 Plus. Full size image.

These are not exactly the same photo because I moved around, didn’t think of using the iPhone 7 for several minutes, etc. But then it also occurred to me to stand in the same place as the second photo and use the second lens on the iPhone 7 Plus to take a 2X view:

Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 7 Plus, using the 2X lens.
Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 7 Plus, using the 2X lens. Full size image.

As it got darker, it became much harder to see, much less take photographs. But the iPhone 7 Plus seemed up to the challenge:

A few minutes later, a different Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 7 Plus.
A few minutes later, a different Thanksgiving evening photo at Jackson Pond, Columbia, MD. Taken with an iPhone 7 Plus. Full size image.

I also took a photo of some ducks, but it was quite dark, and the photo was poor. And yet — I discovered later, looking at the photo on a large computer monitor, that the “ducks” were clearly Canadian geese. This wasn’t clear to the eye, but the iPhone 7 Plus had no problem showing the distinctive plumage.

The iPhone 7 Plus may be an incremental improvement of the iPhone 6 Plus, but the increments are collectively quite impressive. Oh, it also makes phone calls, and is a great GPS.

First world problems

Third world problems usually center around a lack of food, clothing, water, or shelter, or possibly all of them. Compounding these lacks, you often have severe pollution and poverty.

First world problems, however, are more nuanced. For example, this sign in a hotel, alerting guests to the fact that the door does not lead to an entrance or an exit to anything interesting, just Employee Stuff:

This door leads to ES: Employee Stuff. It isn't interesting to anyone else, so move along. Note the sign is written in Braille, too. Photo by Lykara Ryder.
This door leads to ES: Employee Stuff. It isn’t interesting to anyone else, so move along. Note the sign is written in Braille, too. Photo by Lykara Ryder.

Fire hydrants aren’t all that exciting in the first world, but this one is at least different. It is orange instead of red, and it has an Out Of Service sign. Of particular interest: this is a professionally crafted sign, not some temporary thing taped to the hydrant, suggesting that hydrants, much like buses during rush hour on busy routes, are routinely Out Of Service:

Bright orange (orange is the new red?) fire hydrant, prominently saying that it is Out Of Service. Who knew hydrants went off duty? Photo by Lykara Ryder.
Bright orange (orange is the new red?) fire hydrant, prominently saying that it is Out Of Service. Who knew hydrants went off duty? Photo by Lykara Ryder.

Finally, there is this park bench, near the Capitol in Washington, DC. This isn’t just any old park bench, but a solar-powered park bench. And why would a park bench need to be solar-powered? Because it is a park bench with two USB charging ports!

Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is "made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States." Photo by Lykara Ryder.
Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is “made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States.” Photo by Lykara Ryder.

It was crafted by Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off that took a look at how technology could improve urban living. The Soofa Bench comes in various versions, some of which also include environmental monitoring sensors, powered by the solar panels on the bench. Also available are a Soofa Core, which is essentially the central pillar without the bench, and a Soofa Sign, a solar-powered, stand-alone neighborhood electronic bulletin board.

Why the company uses the Colombia domain (.co) and why things are called “Soofa” are not readily apparent.

Pirate Party: success at last!

Pirates are thriving, and it may be a good thing.

On December 2, Iceland’s President mandated that Pirate Party Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir form a government. In the October 2016 general election, the Pirate Party came in third, but the two top vote-getting parties, the Independence Party and the Left-Green Movement, failed to build a coalition large enough to run the country. It is now time for the Pirates!

Yes, Iceland has a Pirate Party. As the Pirate Party website notes, it is patterned after the Swedish Pirate Party.

The UK established a Pirate Party in 2009, again patterned after the Swedish party. Founded in Manchester, it espouses civil liberties, privacy, direct democracy, and other very sensible things, constrained only by the somewhat strange name. It has never managed to get anyone elected to the UK parliament, but a quick read of the pamphlet distributed in Manchester for the 2015 election demonstrates a very workable set of policies:

What is the Pirate Party? "We believe that being a pirate means you are independently minded and independently minded politicians are what we need right now. If you believe most politicians are crooks, then maybe it's time to try the Pirate Party. Think different, vote different."
What is the Pirate Party? “We believe that being a pirate means you are independently minded and independently minded politicians are what we need right now. If you believe most politicians are crooks, then maybe it’s time to try the Pirate Party. Think different, vote different.”
Platform of the Pirate Party: end mass surveillance, respect privacy, basic living income for all, openness and transparency in government, free health care, broadband for all, education as a lifelong right.
Platform of the Pirate Party: end mass surveillance, respect privacy, basic living income for all, openness and transparency in government, free health care, broadband for all, education as a lifelong right.

Given the state of recent political rhetoric in the UK and the US, consider the Pirate Codex. It lays out a simple set of principles that, despite being political, are remarkably non-partisan.