Archive for PEBKAC

You don’t know Jack, yet

Perhaps the world was waiting for an instant-messaging app that’s not all that instant:

[W]ith the ability to instantly send, there’s come an expectation to instantly reply and sometimes the vibration of our phones can feel like an annoying and persistent knock on the door rather than a communicative joy. The idea of patiently waiting for a response to something in a world where we’re all connected has understandably started to fade as slower methods of communication are phased out.

That’s why messaging app Jack is trying to do something a little different by taking the instant out of instant messaging. Jack works by allowing you to send someone a message, image, video clip, or audio clip that they’ll receive instantly but gives you the ability to decide when the recipient can open it, whether it’s one hour, one day, or one year in the future. The recipient can see the time counting down to when they can open their message and the developers hope that this will bring “the pleasure of anticipation” back into communication.

I am pleased to note that behind Jack there really is a Jack.

One thing I’m wondering: can you adjust the time once the message has been sent?

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Hack this, pal

Who knows what might be lurking in the firmware?

It seems Tesla is set to bump the battery capacity of its Model S sedan up to a hefty 100kWh some time in the near future. We know this thanks to the work of a white-hat hacker and Tesla P85D owner named Jason Hughes. Hughes — who previously turned the battery pack from a wrecked Tesla into a storage array for his solar panels — was poking around in the latest firmware of his Model S (version 2.13.77) and discovered an image of the new car’s badge, the P100D.

In not exactly a humblebrag, Hughes tweeted what he’d found — as an encrypted hash. Said hash was quickly decrypted. Tesla’s response was quick: they rolled Hughes’ firmware back to an earlier version. (“We get sauce too?” asked the gander, plaintively.)

Hughes complained; Elon Musk himself said that he hadn’t asked for the rollback. And Hughes wasn’t particularly put out, since — you knew this was coming, right? — he’d already backed up that newest incremental upgrade.

Damn, but cars are getting complicated.

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Your mind is mined

The truth is often even worse than you think it is. I quit hanging around Forbes.com once they got whiny about ad blockers and promised, if you turned them off, an “ad-light” experience. It is, of course, nothing of the kind:

The “ad-light experience” employs 38 trackers consuming 83.1 MB of memory. What does the non-light experience look like? For reference, Google Maps’ scripts take 52.7 MB and they actually do something useful.

Well, so do the trackers, if your definition of “useful” stretches enough to include “follows me around like a lost puppy”:

The tracking isn’t done with cookies; those are too easy to delete. Trackers identify you with a browser fingerprint: Your operating system, browser version, time zone, plug-in versions, screen resolution, installed fonts, IP address, and other things you thought were private.

Or if not private, certainly irrelevant, right? Wrong:

The more uniquely-configured your system, the more identifiable you are. (How identifiable? Check here.)

Which I did. Apparently my browser fingerprint is unique among the 130,000 or so that have been tested, and I ought not to be surprised by that.

It doesn’t matter if you use incognito mode and block cookies; that’s just another data point to add to your profile. It’s called a fingerprint because every one is unique. And each time you load a tracker, your fingerprint is captured and the activity is added to your browsing profile.

Hardly seems worth the bother for NSA to monitor me, if the private sector is already gathering this much data.

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Not at all hiding in plain sight

The “security question,” as an institution, is “superbly moronic,” says Jack Baruth:

[T]here is no reason for the security question to exist. Not the way it’s implemented at most websites. A security question, when used properly, can be helpful. PEER1 and Rackspace, as an example, use security questions to authenticate requests for phone support. The security question, in those cases, is one that you provide. As an example, your Rackspace security question could be, “What’s the pinkest brown?” and the answer could be “867-5309”. It’s a true shared secret. Of course, it’s stored on the Rackspace systems, which means its vulnerable. But as a good way to authenticate a voice on the phone that’s asking you to reboot a server or add a credential, it’s not bad.

The typical security question implementation, however, is not anything like that.

Oh, hell no. Instead, it’s something you’ve probably already posted on Facebook that anyone keen on stealing your identity has already read and filed away for reference.

I admit to having outsmarted myself once, with the requested item being the “name of your high-school sweetheart.” Like rather a lot of women of this era, she has a first and a middle name; unlike most, she was going by the middle name back then. So I plugged in the first name, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned anywhere, even here on this site. (Don’t mention this: it’s pseudonyms all the way down.) You can guess what happened next, or more precisely after a year or two.

Incidentally, I live in what has been known in the neighborhood as the Brown House. But it’s the pinkest brown you’ve ever seen.

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Not really dead tech

I was there the night Prodigy died. If you’d told me at the time that this obsolete technology would be the subject of a lawsuit a decade and a half later, I’d have broken out into guffaws, or at least snickers.

Well, tee-hee:

IBM has sued online deals marketplace Groupon for infringing four of its patents, including two that emerged from Prodigy, the online service launched by IBM and partners ahead of the World Wide Web.

Groupon has built its business model on the use of IBM’s patents, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. “Despite IBM’s repeated attempts to negotiate, Groupon refuses to take a license, but continues to use IBM’s property,” according to the computing giant, which is asking the court to order Groupon to halt further infringement and pay damages.

What the heck sort of Nineties-style code would even be relevant in 2016?

To develop the Prodigy online service that IBM launched with partners in the 1980s, the inventors of U.S. patents 5,796,967 and 7,072,849 developed new methods for presenting applications and advertisements in an interactive service that would take advantage of the computing power of each user’s PC and reduce demand on host servers, such as those used by Prodigy, IBM said in its complaint against Groupon.

“The inventors recognized that if applications were structured to be comprised of ‘objects’ of data and program code capable of being processed by a user’s PC, the Prodigy system would be more efficient than conventional systems,” it added.

Which system, of course, they abandoned in 1999, under the pretext of Y2K concerns.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Encrypt-kickers

As an actual Amazon Fire tablet owner, I knew some of this, but of course not all of it:

Amazon’s Fire OS is a fork of Android, based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code but without Google’s apps and services or guaranteed compatibility with apps developed for Google-approved Android. Amazon has heavily customized the UI and provides its own app store, but it typically leans on AOSP code for under-the-hood, foundational features — in older Fire OS versions, the optional device encryption was handled the same way it was on any Android device. However, according to user David Scovetta and others on Amazon’s support forums, that encryption support has been deprecated and removed in recent releases of Fire OS 5, both for new Fire tablets and for older devices that have been upgraded.

We contacted Amazon for comment, and the company told us that local device encryption support was removed in FireOS 5 because the feature wasn’t being used:

“In the fall when we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using,” Amazon told Ars. “All Fire tablets’ communication with Amazon’s cloud meet our high standards for privacy and security including appropriate use of encryption.”

Which is fine and dandy, if your signals are confined to the Bezosphere. Otherwise:

[E]ncrypted connections between the Fire tablets and external servers are safe (or, as safe as the server involved and the method of encryption being used will allow for), but thieves and law enforcement officials will be able to grab user data stored locally without much trouble.

And is it my imagination, or are those two parties gradually becoming less distinguishable from one another?

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Brave new storage

Tam needed to move a whole bunch of files, and acted appropriately:

I go to Amazon and order a 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive. Huh. Same day delivery available. I mention it to Bobbi and she asks me to order one for her, too.

A couple hours later, there’s a thump on the front porch, caused by the impact of a box containing probably more storage space than every computer I owned before 2010 combined, delivered to my doorstep in hours on a Saturday for less than the price of dinner & drinks for two at a middlin’ fair restaurant.

And close to what I paid in 2006 for a drive containing a single gigabyte.

Note from the description:

The 128GB Turbo USB 3.0 Flash Drive can hold approximately 23,674 songs.

By now, there are probably that many covers of “All About That Base.”

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An overdose of PHP

Not that you asked, but the servers behind the scenes here are running PHP 5.6. This is “Recommended” by the host; they still support 5.5, but no earlier version.

But they’re now offering 7.0, which they describe as “new and scary.” Maybe it is; I wouldn’t know. It’s been out since December, and is considered a stable release; the current install is 7.0.3. The shade of Ned Ludd tells me I probably should wait until 7.1, but what the hell does he know? And besides, I’m on a new server as of yesterday, so none of the statistics are statistically significant, at least for a little while.

(Before you ask: there is no PHP 6.)

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The remotest remote car hack

Once upon a time, it was discovered that if you can splice your way into the car’s wiring, you can do all sorts of wicked things to the computers that run everything. But that was over five years ago. Last year, it was revealed that such things can be done remotely, if you know how to take advantage of certain vulnerabilities in the operating system.

Which brings us to this year:

Last month I was over in Norway doing training for ProgramUtvikling, the good folks who run the NDC conferences I’ve become so attached to. I was running my usual “Hack Yourself First” workshop which is targeted at software developers who’d like to get up to speed on the things they should be doing to protect their apps against today’s online threats. Across the two days of training, I cover 16 separate discrete modules ranging from SQL injection to password cracking to enumeration risks, basically all the highest priority security bits modern developers need to be thinking about. I also cover how to inspect, intercept and control API requests between rich client apps such as those you find on a modern smart phone and the services running on the back end server. And that’s where things got interesting.

One of the guys was a bit inspired by what we’d done and just happened to own … the world’s best-selling electric car, a Nissan LEAF. What the workshop attendee ultimately discovered was that not only could he connect to his LEAF over the internet and control features independently of how Nissan had designed the app, he could control other people’s LEAFs.

The guy’s experiments proved to be reproducible:

Nissan, of course, will have to implement a fix.

It’s a different class of vulnerability to the Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek Jeep hacking shenanigans of last year, but in both good and bad ways. Good in that it doesn’t impact the driving controls of the vehicle, yet bad in that the ease of gaining access to vehicle controls in this fashion doesn’t get much easier — it’s profoundly trivial. As car manufacturers rush towards joining in on the “internet of things” craze, security cannot be an afterthought nor something we’re told they take seriously after realising that they didn’t take it seriously enough in the first place.

And it’s a great argument for fixing up that old ’96 Maxima, which is mostly immune to stuff like this, unless you’re right there with the wires.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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The macroses, they is ours, the precious

Elsewhere, Moses supposes macroses is roses, but Moses supposes erroneously.

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Degrees of brilliance

While Gadgette editor Holly Brockwell fangirled all over the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge — and let’s face it, no one fangirls better or with more technological suss — she dropped this little tidbit of information that induced Severe Jaw Drop in yours truly:

Amazingly, the S7 and S7 Edge feature water cooling, something PC users have had for a long time. It’s essentially a way of using sealed containers of liquid to cool down the components of a phone during intensive activity, and while it’s not the first time it’s been seen in a smartphone, it’s still a very impressive feature to cram into such a slimline phone. Most people won’t care, but we think it’s cool.

In the literal sense, yet.

I had no idea they were even thinking about liquid-cooled smartphones, though of course the concept makes eminently good sense. This, of course, is why she’s among the best tech writers in the known universe, and I’m still sitting here fumbling with T9 texting.

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Hope for the hopeless notebook

Toshi the Road Warrior, a sturdy Toshiba Satellite which has followed me around on road trips for a decade and a half, is woefully out of date. But now I’m wondering if maybe a solution just dropped into my lap:

Earlier today we published a story about Neverware, a New York City startup that is helping schools refurbish old Windows PCs and Macs that had been abandoned as unusable, converting them into “Chromebooks” students can actually work on. Neverware charges schools a licensing fee for every machine it enables this way, but it also offers the software for free to individual users. And starting today, you can set up most computers to dual boot into their original operating system or Chrome, meaning you don’t have to get rid of anything on your machine to give it a spin as a Chrome-capable laptop.

Now these aren’t technically “Chromebooks” because that name is a trademark reserved for the laptops created by Google and its hardware partners. A Google representative suggested we call them Chrome laptops, or Chromium laptops. I’m partial to Chromiumbook myself. In any case, you’ll find that the experience is mostly indistinguishable from Chrome, and that all the Google apps and services you expect work without a hitch.

Toshi’s lack of suds may not matter in the Chrome context:

I have been using a six-year-old Dell Latitude laptop running Neverware’s CloudReady software for a few weeks. In Chrome it boots in under 30 seconds and runs fast enough for me to use it as my only computer at work. In Windows, well, not so much. As we noted in our feature, an irony of the cloud computing era is that a lot of older machines discarded as obsolete actually have far more horsepower, in terms of pure hardware, than the latest Chromebooks coming to market.

Then again, that’s a six-year-old. Toshi is sixteen. Still, the idea is tempting, and it’s not like I’m going to miss Windows XP.

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Who was that improperly masked man?

@SwiftOnSecurity presents a true tale of woe, as told by Lee Hutchinson of Ars Technica:

If you have a competent network person — by which I mean “a network person who will tell a clown like this to go pound sand” — don’t let him (or her, if applicable) get away.

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Y1.97K

Unix/Epoch time starts at 00:00:00 UTC, 1 January 1970; as far as the various Unices are concerned, time did not exist until that moment.

Some operating systems take it more seriously than others. You set any current iPhone to that date and you have Carnation Instant Brick:

iPhone users discovered that changing the date of the phone in “Settings” to January 1st, 1970 causes the device to “brick,” or essentially turn off without ever turning back on again.

The good news is that it’s highly unlikely you could ever do this by accident. Manually changing the date of the iPhone to a time 30 years ago is pretty tedious.

And a time 46 years ago is perhaps more so.

Needless to say, this went viral rather quickly, with the usual scum-sucking geeks promoting resetting the time to reveal some iOS Easter egg. (For Windows folk: this is the equivalent of deleting the System32 folder, an instance of bad advice that never seems to go away entirely.) Apple has vowed to fix this bug — which, it says, applies to any date May 1970 or before — in the next software update.

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No more Mosaic

After all, this is 2016 fercrissake:

Screenshot of tweet by Sarah Withee recommending IE or Netscape Navigator

Get with the program, people. And not that program, either.

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Rudest intrusion

Some hackish types are in it for the lulz; some others, I am told, for the advancement of knowledge. Then there are the ones who are in it for the money:

The computers at a Los Angeles hospital have been down for more than a week after ransomware ended up on its internal network. Patients at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center have been transferred to other hospitals because of the outage, and connected medical devices and portals are offline, as well. The attackers have reportedly asked for more than $3.6 million to decrypt the system and the hospital’s files, CSO reports. Staff are now having to turn to fax machines and landline telephones to get work done, and medical records are being kept on paper.

The hospital didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and hasn’t elaborated on how far the attack has spread, what kind of ransomware infected its network, or how it was even infected in the first place. According to CSO, the incident was random, likely meaning a hospital staffer clicked a malicious link or attachment that ultimately spread the malware throughout the network.

Reportedly the LAPD and the FBI have been called in.

The invaders, CSO says, aren’t asking for dollars: they’re asking for bitcoin, to the tune of 9000 BTC. Last I looked, 1 BTC was worth just over $406.

(Via Emin Gün Sirer.)

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The blank period

Picasa, born 14 years ago and adopted by Google as a toddler, is about to be taken behind the woodshed and shot:

It hasn’t made sense for Google to continue to invest in two separate photo storage and sharing applications, as it has been doing with the newer Google Photos and the dated software Picasa. And now the company is finally going to do something about that: Google announced [Friday] morning that it will no longer support the Picasa desktop application as of March 16, 2016. In addition, it will be archiving Picasa Web Albums data at a later date while encouraging those users to convert to Google Photos instead.

This does not necessarily mean that the Picasa application will no longer work; it does mean, however, that Google isn’t going to put any effort into maintaining it.

The app itself, though, may not be the problem for some users:

[T]here’s likely more concern from users about the data collected on Picasa Web Albums, which includes very specific metadata about their photos. Specifically, users may have tagged their photos for organizational purposes, as well as added captions. Friends and family may have commented on some photos, as well. It doesn’t sound like that metadata has made the transition to Google Photos, however.

I plan to use this event as my excuse for continuing to use Flickr, with the justification that Yahoo!, Flickr’s current owner, is in no position to develop a replacement for it.

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More snippy, less Clippy

One need not have seen Her to realize that some guys are inclined to come on to anything they recognize as female, even if she’s — um, it’s — only an algorithm. Microsoft’s new digital assistant is disinclined to take crap from said guys:

Microsoft’s Deborah Harrison told CNN that when the company launched their own assistant Cortana in 2014, a lot of the questions she was asked related to her sex life. Seriously, it turns out you just have to be coded to sound female for people to feel entitled to you sexually.

According to Harrison, though, Cortana is not going to accept this kind of behaviour. As one of the writers behind Cortana’s dialogue in the US, Harrison is responsible for the jokes and responses users hear when they talk to the assistant. And that includes the responses they hear when they decide to be inappropriate. At the ReWork Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco Harrison said “If you say things that are particularly assholeish to Cortana, she will get mad. That’s not the kind of interaction we want to encourage.”

How mad is she?

If you ask “Will you date me?” she’ll respond “I know you know this, but I’m saying it anyway: I’m in a phone.” If you tell her to kiss you, she’ll reply “Hold up, chief. Let’s not go there.”

And fergoshsakes, don’t ask her what she’s wearing.

I dunno. This sounds — well, “testy” is clearly the wrong word — less than thoroughly pissed off. Still, the same theory that says you don’t want to date someone who treats a restaurant’s wait staff like crap would indicate that you don’t want to date someone who treats Cortana like crap.

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Catch a wave

A sysadmin posted this tale of Wi-Fi woe to reddit:

I have a user, who also happens to be high up in the org chart, who claims hypersensitivity to radio waves. This person has requested that I disable or otherwise limit the performance of the access point located near their workstation to alleviate their symptoms of dizziness, fogginess, etc.

My research shows me that RF hypersensitivity is not a diagnosable condition. Studies apparently have show that people who claim to suffer from this cannot reliably identify when they are in an area of high RF activity or not.

Im curious to know if any of you have encountered this kind of complaint? Have I not done enough research and this is in fact a real thing? Is this entirely an HR issue? The complaint isnt going to go away and im not sure what else to say other than: Thats not a real thing so stop whining.

Any comments or feedback are welcome.

Wonder if that user has a cell phone.

The very first comment, I believe, was spot on:

Just tell them you did it and see what happens. Chances are they’ll believe you and their symptoms will go away.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Way back in 286

In 1988, Dell had only just retired the PC’s Limited name, and this was a bid they put in on a complete 80286-based system:

Seven hundred American dollars for a 40-meg hard drive! Then again, this was quite a deal, considering what was on offer not that long before.

Now, which was worse? Windows 2.0, or MS-DOS 4? (I suspect the answer is Yes.)

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Unexpectedly weak

I have fairly decent Wi-Fi at the palatial estate at Surlywood. Then again, it’s a fairly small perimeter. A house that takes up a whole block — let’s say, oh, the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in Washington — well, that’s a different story:

Barack Obama moaned about the White House’s Wi-Fi coverage in an interview with CBS’s Super Bowl pre-game show. “This is an old building so there’s a lot of dead spots where the Wi-Fi doesn’t work … no, actually it’s an issue,” Obama explains.

See? You thought the President was going out of town to go loaf somewhere and/or play golf. He’s actually looking for a better signal.

Michelle Obama agreed, adding that their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, get “frustrated sometimes.” Obama hopes to fix the “whole tech thing” for “the next group of folks” who will move in.

I just hope there aren’t any mail servers in the bathrooms.

(Via Fark.)

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Trojan apparently slain by geek

Not even malware is hackproof, it appears:

Users tricked by spam messages to open malicious Word documents that distribute the Dridex online banking Trojan might have a surprise: they’ll get a free antivirus program instead.

That’s because an unknown person — possibly a white hat hacker — gained access to some of the servers that cybercriminals use to distribute the Dridex Trojan and replaced it with an installer for Avira Free Antivirus.

Good thing, right? But still against the law:

Although replacing known malware with an antivirus isn’t an activity most people would consider a hacking crime, it’s likely against the law in most countries. A whitehat hacker who figured out a way to penetrate Dridex servers and tamper with the malware distribution channel may have done so discreetly to prevent being detained or prosecuted by law enforcement authorities.

And of course there’s a worst-case scenario:

A competing theory is that Dridex operators intentionally included the AV installer, possibly to throw off the detection process of other AV engines.

Which might be plausible, since the installer does not actually autorun: the person receiving it has to run it manually.

(Via Fark, with the kind assistance of @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Obviously not too damn much

I suspect this incident will never make it into a future edition of How to Make Friends and Influence People:

Okay, maybe in the Appendix, under “Bad Examples.”

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Poor but dishonest

Every barrel, it seems, contains a few bad apples:

GRACE Marketplace thinks of itself as being the Walmart of homeless centers.

In one centralized location in Gainesville, Florida, it offers end to end services: substance abuse counseling, help with signing up for public benefits such as food stamps, showers, restrooms, meals, a place to store personal belongings, an adjacent tent village called Dignity Village, and more.

Unfortunately, it just lost one crucial service: namely, the free Wi-Fi that could have helped Dignity Village residents to find or apply for jobs.

And how did this happen? Pretty much the same way a lot of people with roofs over their heads lose their service:

“We would love to be able to provide Wi-Fi out here, but we don’t have any IT support,” said Jonathan DeCarmine, GRACE Marketplace operations director. “We were notified by our Internet service provider that there were people downloading things illegally, and if we didn’t put an end to that, they would turn off Internet to the entire property, which would keep us from being able to do business and provide services.”

Meanwhile, at the next level up:

Theresa Lowe, executive director of the North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said she has no plans to turn the Wi-Fi back on. They had some security restrictions in place already, but people found ways around them. She said there can be hefty fees for illegal downloads, and that’s something the center can’t afford.

“We had a couple complaints from our provider and notified everyone, ‘please don’t do this, we’ll end up losing the service,” and it happened again, so our decision was to disable the Wi-Fi because we would be charged,” Lowe said.

Those whose business model depends on depicting the homeless as saintly and utterly without blame will be crying into their kale smoothies; as with any other community, any other demographic, “good” and “not so good” live cheek by jowl.

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A new crease in the black hat

Anyone who owns a domain has likely received a “bill” from a third party offering to renew that domain at some ridiculous multiple of the actual registration price. Enough people have caught on to this scheme that now the scamsters are having to pretend they’re offering a service:

SEO pitch for wendex.net

Obviously the most important thing here is “SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT.” Amount of said payment: $63.00.

In the fine print down below:

You have received this message because you elected to receive special notification proposal. If you no longer wish to receive our notifications, please unsubscribe here or mail us a written request to US Main Office: SEO Domain Registration Company, Los Angeles, CA 90036, Email: seodomainregservice@mail.com or Asia Main Office: SEO Domain Registration Company, Shenzhen Futian, Email: seodomainregservice@mail.com. If you have multiple accounts with us, you must opt out for each one individually in order to stop receiving notifications notices. We are a search engine optimization company. We do not directly register or renew domain names. We are selling traffic generator software tools. This message is CAN-SPAM compliant. THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A NOTIFICATION PROPOSAL. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS NOTIFICATION PROPOSAL. This message, which contains promotional material strictly along the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. We have clearly mentioned the source mail-id of this email, also clearly mentioned our subject lines and they are in no way misleading. Please do not reply to this email, as we are not able to respond to messages sent to this address.

I want to see how a “written request” gets to the SEO Domain Registration Company without a street address in Los Angeles, CA 90036 (near Hancock Park and the Miracle Mile) or however the Chinese sort these things out in Futian district, Shenzhen.

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Marked for death by Information Services (12)

All CAPTCHAs are annoying, but some are more annoying than others, and the one with the four-by-three grid of thumbnails — “Select all photos containing X” — currently sets the curve for Maximum Farking Irritation, especially if you have to go through several cycles to persuade it to shut the fark up.

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Well, they do own the name

This was trending on Facebook — at least, the Facebook they send me — last night:

Facebook screeshot: iPhone: Apple May Release New Smartphone Named After iPhone 5, Report Says

Um, say what?

Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac reported Friday that the 4-inch “iPhone 5se” would replace the iPhone 5s, with features including an 8-megapixel camera, an A8 processor and Live Photos.

Oh. Why couldn’t you have said “Apple May Release An Updated iPhone 5”?

Update: Someone wised up. It now says “New Smartphone Model to Replace 5S.”

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More arbitrary levels

Bill Peschel had to go rooting, so to speak, around his Web site:

I had received an email from HostGator telling me that they couldn’t back up PlanetPeschel because of “inode,” which was about as unhelpful a message as one could get.

Fortunately, HostGator had a page explaining what the heck inode means. In plain English, I have too many files on my shared hosting. More than a 100,000 of them. They don’t mind my having them, they said, they’re just not going to back up all of them. And if you get to 250,000, they warned me, I’ll have to pay them and make some changes.

(Shared hosting, if I remember right, means my website’s on a server with a bunch of other sites.)

This is indeed what shared hosting is. I have it. I have five sites on that machine, but I’m not alone.

Anyway, this surprised me. I’ve got a lot of files on Planetpeschel, but 100K?

Depending on what the cache has done lately, I have somewhere around 25,000 files.

I have a different backup issue. On my WordPress installs, a plugin called wp-db-backup gzips up the database and emails me a copy once a week — except here. The issue is that this database is freaking huge: on the order of 75 megabytes. Doesn’t sound like a lot for nearly 20,000 posts and about two and a half comments per, but the catch is that gzip brings it down to 21 or 22 MB — and the host’s email facility won’t handle anything in excess of 20 MB. Workaround: while I’m not working on the site, I set the backup to run manually, and drop the resulting gzipped file on my desktop.

Bill’s excess-files problem, however, isn’t related to this at all:

I have a plug-in on WordPress called Autoptimize, which saves bits and pieces of the site to call them up quickly. Turns out my settings told it to save a lot of files. Like, 65,000 of them.

Once I got rid of them, HostGator thanked me and said they’ll back up my site next week. Everyone’s happy (except me; I had to put a note down on my calendar a week from now to check my inodes and see if they’re swelling again).

I hadn’t heard of this plugin, so I went looking:

Autoptimize makes optimizing your site really easy. It concatenates all scripts and styles, minifies and compresses them, adds expires headers, caches them, and moves styles to the page head and can move scripts to the footer. It also minifies the HTML code itself, making your page really lightweight. There are advanced options and an extensive API available to enable you to tailor Autoptimize to each and every site’s specific needs.

Which sounds nice. Then there’s this:

If you consider performance important, you really should use a caching-plugin such as e.g. WP Super Cache or HyperCache to complement Autoptimize.

Hmmm. I went straight to the caching program, myself. It saves bigger pages — full-fledged HTML static pages — but a lot fewer of them.

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8080 in ’80

Back in the day, few of us could aspire to these heady heights of technology, but oh, how we dreamed:

Advertisement for IMSAI Computer System

Information Management Sciences Associates, Incorporated, founded in 1973, sort of still exists today: Fischer-Freitas, which was actually set up by two former employees to acquire IMSAI after its 1979 bankruptcy, continues to provide parts and support for these Ur-machines.

(“Optional 16-bit”? 8085, maybe?)

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Bandwidthout

It is de rigueur for us occasionally peripatetic types to grumble about the Wi-Fi offered in this hotel or that resort. (Me, I hunt around for a Cat5 jack, and usually I find one. Yes, I carry cables.) But there’s another side to that story:

I have way more sympathy for hotels and their wifi systems. We installed a wifi system in a 100 site campground in Alabama. That system has become a data black hole — no matter how much bandwidth I invest in, people use more. Every night it seems like there are 300 people on 100 campsites all trying to stream a movie in HD. I am not sure it will ever [be] enough, and we get no end of speed complaints despite having an absurd T1 bandwidth into the system. I can’t see myself ever investing in such a system again.

Not that a T1 is all that doggone fast: 1.544 Mbit/sec. Divide that by 300 and you have approximately AOL circa 1994. Still, the principle seems clear: the more bandwidth you have, the more gets used. Traffic planners, in the automotive sense, have known this for years, and have occasionally behaved accordingly.

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