aftermath

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Aftermath Privacy Settings

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I’ve launched a ning discussion topic for notes on further efforts to tighten up the privacy settings for aftermath and its sidebar connections. As always, any suggestions or other discussion always welcome.

Written by macheide

8 June 2009 at 2:40 pm

Posted in macheide

Live But Private

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msnliveprivate090607

annotare is now a private journal.

If I can’t figure out how to open it up selectively, so that I get to choose who may view it, then I may eventually kill it as a separate blog and pull its content up into an aftermath category. Which it could be, although not without squeezing some round peg into a square hole. I’ve been using MSN Live blog annotare for collecting comments on news events, almost like a cyberspace version of what I do all the time verbally watching the everyday news. And although I’d not yet finished stretching out my legs with annotare, doing such current events commenting via a separate blog, with RSS feed into an aftermath sidebar space, was offering me additional features that a simple aftermath category will probably not give me without much struggle and compromise. For instance, starting to build a separate favorites list and blogroll that would be specifically oriented toward current events tracking, versus attempting to segregate those contact points within WordPress’ structure while still linking that segregated sublist up with the current events aftermath category posts themselves.

Without going into any greater detail here, annotare was starting to shape up into being one of the primary illustrations of a design I had been building toward, a sort of “cloud” blogging style, where multiple blogs were being woven into one, giving more depth to my blogging than any one blog with any single service could ever dream of providing.

Alas, I’ve decided that I can not blog for myself and for you and for simply allowing the Internet world at large a glance at that, without sacrificing privacy I desire and need, no matter how open or veiled my writing itself is. So the past week or so, I’ve locked up aftermath, stripped out Twitter, and rendered Skitch pictures available on an invitation-only basis.

And with signs that MSN Live – which is a loose conglomerate of services under which annotare is being built – had been compromised in a way I do not wish to see pursued, this had to be the next step. Nice, that with annotare I didn’t have to do things like with the still-very-elementary Twitter, where full privacy was attainable only by deleting all of the past and by electing to never again Twitter anything at all. As indicated earlier in this post, until I can refine the new settings, even you can’t see annotare anymore. But for the moment, at least that means nobody else can either. And I can work with future changes better from that perspective than from where it was viewed yesterday.

Written by macheide

7 June 2009 at 5:50 am

Posted in macheide

The Luke Method

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The Luke Method for Computer Security: Unplug your computer, take out any battery back-up power, and let it sit like a rock.

When I first met Susan, she was working part-time for Luke, who ran a computer business out of a little shop in a local strip mall. When “Crash” – as she all-too-appropriately nicknamed the desktop computer she was using at the time – began suffering motherboard meltdown, naturally Susan took the equipment to her employer . . . again, and then again when it still wouldn’t work, and then again and again and again. Each time charged for Luke’s work without getting back a computer that worked.

When all else failed, Luke finally offered to simply purchase Crash from her . . . for a price that – when added to all she had spent for work that had not worked – would have amounted to the same deal as if she had paid him to take the computer off her hands in the first place, essentially paying him a fee to not be wasting her time.

She donated Crash to the Boy Scouts instead.

As ludicrous as Luke’s idea of a good price was, even more outrageous was his philosphy on how to maintain computer security. Susan would encounter a problem – which we did finally figure out to be related to a malfunctioning motherboard, i.e., hardware-based, not software-related – and Luke would say, “Don’t use the Internet, and you won’t have problems.” So she’d cut back her use of the Internet to the bare-bones, completely innocuous websites, and he would say, “Well, don’t use AOL Internet Messenger, and you won’t have problems.” Then, “Well, don’t use e-mail, and you won’t have problems.” Then even getting as ridiculously stupid as Apple commercials are, trying to bullshit her into believing, “Well, if you don’t use Word, you won’t have problems,” and “Well, if you don’t use Windows, you won’t have problems.” Little by little cutting out every possible thing the computer might be doing when its motherboard would blow up, until essentially she would have arrived at the essence of the Luke Method: Don’t use your computer, and your computer won’t have problems.

We laugh – and in no small part, we laugh because he was charging his customers for such expert fix-it know-how – but the Luke Method can at least be used as the farthest extreme of a ranking for computer activities that are more secure or less secure. For example, the following list represents some of my own initial impressions, with rankings running from 0 for zero exposure and zero risk (but of course also zero utility and zero use), representing strict application of the Luke Method, all the way to 100 for complete exposure and absolute risk (representing complete freedom for only the nano-second it will take before your computer goes belly up to a virus or some other attack). Notice that the two extremities of this list loop around to the same result: in either instance, you lose use of your computer.

0 The Luke Method – Turn your computer off, unplug it, and never turn it on again. Guarantee: Your computer will never crash nor be infected with any virus. Result: zero use of your computer.
5 Avoid All External Contact – Luke is unrealistic, but technically correct: avoid all Internet use whatsoever, and you will need no firewalls, no anti-virus software. Of course, we had computer viruses spreading to our equipment long before the Internet – to reach for minimum risk, you must also not load any files from diskettes, from flash drives, from any external source whatsoever without first scanning for the nasties. Result: You have a sophisticated typewriter, not really what we’d think of as a modern computer.
10 Super Security-Conscious – It’s possible to overload your computer so tightly with firewalls and anti-virus anti-popup anti-cookie software and operating system security updates and all manner of other protective gear, that your computer will run almost as sluggishly as near the high end of this ranking. Technically, the strongest anti-virus software packages are almost as bad as the viruses they supposedly protect from, the only difference being that you give them a piece of your bank account up front by paying for the anti-virus software, instead of letting them steal access to your bank account itself. In mob-infested neighborhoods, we call that a protection racket. It’s also very near the Luke Method end of the scale: you turn over the majority of your computing power to the protection software, hoping it hands you back sufficient computing power to conduct the rest of your computer use in some relative semblance of peace.
50 Shared Computer Use – Don’t be the only person to use your computer. I place this computer practice midway down my personal ranking, because in a sense it can be thought of so, representing the “balance” of two or more users of your computer. Unfortunately, the risks and exposures do not average out among the users; rather, the security level for all will be the security level of the worst. For example, take two users: one strictly uses the Luke Method itself and stops using the computer whatsoever, but the other user goes to the farthest extreme; the result will be an infected computer that neither can use. We can’t all selfishly own and control a computer completely to one individual, but sharing a computer does demand shared responsibility, shared awareness of the risks, shared respect for the other users’ security.
55 Type Your URLs – Nobody, even the best court stenographer, is immune from keyboard mistakes. Make a mistake when you type in an URL you wish to visit, and all too frequently you don’t just get a not-found message; rather, you can run smack into the arms of an Internet rodent who has anticipated the typing error. Worst instance of this one: try to visit your bank’s website by typing in its URL incorrectly, and you’re begging to be robbed. Best is to visit your trusted websites only via trusted links, creating such links as favorites after the very rare times when you very very very very carefully type in the correct URL.
60 Check out Links Suggested by Stangers – You meet a kind stranger who suggests on his LiveJournal or Facebook that there’s some picture or video or other content that you really really really must see, just click right here. Ooops, time to flush out your computer again and feed it antibiotics to rid it of unwanted viruses and other deadly content. Better thing to do: don’t.
70 Pop-Up Temptations – A pop-up ad interrupts your surfing, warning you that your computer is at risk, wouldn’t you like to have your computer scanned for problems and protected from future risks. Click to accept the pop-up’s offer, and you’ve quite likely just done the exact opposite, inviting the vampire through your computer’s front door.
80 Visit Internet Gaming Websites – See the porn site comments further down in this ranking. Gambling websites and other gaming sites are generally not quite as venal as the porn, but their basic character is much the same: leave without becoming an addicted paying customer, and you risk leaving with an unwanted guest on your computer; pay, and the only relief they will grant is that the unwanted guest might not destroy as long as you continue to pay.
90 Visit Internet Porn Websites – Even the typical porn website that offers supposedly free content is highly dangerous. The standard porn distributor doesn’t really wish to crash your computer, since that threatens to remove a paying customer from coming through the door. But they do know that even a paying customer is likely to get addicted enough to pay to come back, even if that means battling unwanted junk piled onto your computer. And forget it if you’ve simply peeked through their free content and try to leave without getting hooked – count on it, as surely as swimming in a cesspool without a gas mask: you leave the site with a nasty kissoff for failing to pay up.
95 Run E-Mail Attachments from Strangers – Any e-mail from any unknown source should always be deleted without even opening the e-mail itself, much less running any attached software. Guarantee: Any software attached to strange e-mail has one goal and one goal only. Run that software, and you may have to fix a hell of a lot more than your computer, starting with your phone number and your bank account and in the worst scenarios even extending as far as your home address and even your own name.
100 Piss Off an Internet Rodent – By any of the previous high-ranked methods or by any other activities, get on the bad side of a person who has evil intentions and zero morals. Whether out of sour grapes or because it was their intention all along, the rodent will target your computer for destruction. Guarantee: Even with anti-virus equipment, firewalls, and other protection, your computer will inevitably suffer the consequence of the rodent’s attack. Result: zero use of your computer.

As I’ve hinted, although i scoff at what Luke himself advised, generally speaking I consider my own computer use and Internet use to be far closer to the Luke Method than to the high end of these rankings. Nobody but I use my own equipment. I surf only a very small number of Internet websites, almost all of those maintained by governmental agencies, and all of those accessed through links vs typing in the URL. I rarely use e-mail, and then only from people I have long trusted. I install no new software except from the absolute most trusted sources.

Like how it’s sad that airline hijackings and school shootings and other crimes we’ve suffered in modern society have robbed us of personal and social freedoms, so too it is a shame we do not have as much freedom with our computers that we ought to have. But all in all, Luke’s foolishness did possess an ounce of wisdom: if we lock our doors at night and set the house alarm, we can usually sleep with a degree of peace.

Written by macheide

1 June 2009 at 5:48 am

Posted in macheide

Out of Place

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This is not where the ear buds for my cell phone belong. I can’t even imagine what brain fart threw them here. (And since it’s been several days since I last used the buds, this picture says what my hair has looked like all week.)
 
But then, if I always put things back where they belong after use, I’d still have the bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone, so wouldn’t have wasted time out of the morning hunting for this equipment in preparation of the day’s conference call.
 

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - macheïde

Written by macheide

26 February 2009 at 7:18 am

Posted in macheide

Humdrum Doldrums

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Maybe it just goes with my mood, but it’s incomprehensible to me how a sage of Safire‘s erudition can write an article with the word “plunge” featured in the title, lead off with a quote speaking of “doldrums” with the distinct implication of that being the destination of said plunge, then immediately hand out false praise of the observation being “rich in literary-linguistic associations.” Sorry, Bill, but that amalgam is about as improper as your stockbroker friend’s bonus pay or as poor as his clients’ 401(k) balances. Tell him to stick with picking stocks (yeah, right), not words.

The Doldrums are not the state one endures when suffering depression, clinical or economic or otherwise. Dolorous as The Doldrums can be, especially when one has a schedule to keep (such as a retirement date), they are nothing worse than the worst of being stuck at a standstill out in the middle of nowhere, far from port. With the Meltdown’s stormy headwinds still costing the U.S. alone some 30k-50k jobs each new day (no sir, sitting on one’s ass unemployed doesn’t mean you’ve stopped falling), we should be so lucky as to be in The Doldrums. At least then we could send out the rowboats to pull our sad ship to gentler winds, instead of having to bail bail bail bail bail our way praying the ship won’t sink all the way down to the ocean floor. When a victim has been pushed off the roof of the New York Stock Exchange and is midway plummeting to certain death in an encounter with the pavement below, we don’t say he’s in The Doldrums. (Or at least, we don’t praise the insight of anyone who does say so.)

In his glory days, Safire used to be unparalleled in bringing out the color in our language. Back then, his instinctive response would have been, “No, grasshopper, one is not in The Doldrums when one is still in freefall, sliding down the slippery slope, very much at the mercy of the hurricane force winds of greed and deceit.” Back then, if handed a poem titled “The Plunge” with “Doldrums” as one of the main rhyme scheme words, he wouldn’t have graded the exercise better than a C- without seeing the work reach for that pause, like a child’s swing at its dizziest reach, before things turn back the other direction. Back then, Safire would not have so easily been fooled by his stockbroker friend’s delusion that the seemingly endless pitch into darkness might somehow have constituted a bit of doldrumosity by virtue of losing his bearings enough to not realize we’re all still falling.

Like, at least reach past that feathery glancing tease that touched no further than the first two definitions given in your Oxford English Dictionary. Because that would have brought you to the third definition, which very much does characterize the state my own head has been in this past day –

An intellectually non-plussed condition.

And of course, “nonplussed” being –

Brought to a nonplus or standstill; at a nonplus; perplexed, embarrassed.

Which of course points us to “nonplus” –

A state in which no more can be said or done; inability to proceed in speech or action; a state of perplexity of puzzle.

Which quite accurately describes my own head since early afternoon yesterday, with the germ of a new poem sitting in there grinning back at me like a cheshire cat, but no winds from any muse inside the horizon from any direction.

But which comes nowhere remotely close to characterizing the economic shape we’re in. No, not even when we take congressional Republicans into account, notwithstanding their pitifully bailout-worthy level of perplexity and inability to act. Constipation or catatonic stares are not signs of being in The Doldrums. The Doldrums are when you have no wind to fill your sails, not when you’ve forgotten where you’re going or how to turn the ship around.

[Footnote: And it is the “Meltdown.” Just because the president who brought it to us can’t pronounce “nuclear accident” doesn’t mean we know what the downwind fallout is doing to us.]

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Written by macheide

1 February 2009 at 4:02 pm

Posted in macheide

Saturday Morning Sunlight

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Written by macheide

1 November 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in macheide

Hell or High Water

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One single metric does not suffice to warn people of a pending hurricane threat. Calling Ike a 2 left far too many people unprepared. And trying to emphasize Ike was a “strong 2” just 1mph below a 3 didn’t help. Weather forecasters would do better to work toward educating people on a 4-metric system: wind – rainfall – surge – intensity. And like has been done with the existing single-metric scale, so as to build on common public understanding of relative degree of threat, construct the new metrics so that they also go from 1 through 5, exponentially.

  1. Wind – Yes, do keep the existing scale based on wind speed. Potential damage to roofs, structures, blowing debris, and other wind-related risks is obviously one critical aspect of a hurricane.
     
  2. Rainfall – Allison didn’t even make it to a cat 1 and accordingly posed little or no threat to structural integrity vis a vis wind damage, but was of course a sufficiently severe rainfall threat to make Allison the only tropical storm that never reached hurricane status yet had its name retired. Perhaps the metric here could be developed from the forward speed of the storm, since a stalled storm dumps far more rain.
     
  3. Storm Surge – Ike will be remembered more for its surge than for its winds, while its rain was hardly a shrug. For this metric, look to wave levels as the storm approaches perhaps.
     
  4. Intensity – Or duration, something that indicates the momentum behind the storm. Like how getting hit by a 110mph train is a hell of a difference from being hit by a 110mph feather. Ike was huge, with hurricane-force winds extending some 120 miles from center as it approached land. That meant it would last longer inland after landfall, indeed was said to have built up more kinetic energy than any other hurricane for the past 40 years. People were insufficiently warned of what that threat meant.

So Allison might have been tagged a 0-4-0-3, so residents in low-lying areas with high flash flood risk would know their threat to be very high and of somewhat extended duration. And shoreline residents might not have shrugged so much at Ike if it had been tagged a 2-1-4-5. Whereas a 4-1-1-1 would tell mobile home residents to beware even if the relative duration of the storm were to be brief. While something like a 2-2-1-5 would warn residents that storm threats would persist very far inland.

Such a system would not be overly complicated to communicate, especially if they built it up on a 5-must system similar to the existing scale. People already juggle multiple numbers in numerous situations, from blood pressure readings to stock market swings to sports standings. Is it too much to ask that we have the necessary information for something so life-threatening as a hurricane?

[Additional Ike-related aftermath content: Hurricane Ike Aftermath]

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Written by macheide

14 September 2008 at 6:24 am

Posted in macheide