Contempt for one’s users

It’s hard, I believe, to work up more contempt than this:

Lenovo is selling computers that come preinstalled with adware that hijacks encrypted Web sessions and may make users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks that are trivial for attackers to carry out, security researchers said.

The critical threat is present on Lenovo PCs that have adware from a company called Superfish installed. As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there’s something much more nefarious about the Superfish package. It installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. When a user visits an HTTPS site, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish and falsely represents itself as the official website certificate.

But that’s merely heinous and reprehensible. From there, it gets worse:

Even worse, the private encryption key accompanying the Superfish-signed Transport Layer Security certificate appears to be the same for every Lenovo machine. Attackers may be able to use the key to certify imposter HTTPS websites that masquerade as Bank of America, Google, or any other secure destination on the Internet. Under such a scenario, PCs that have the Superfish root certificate installed will fail to flag the sites as forgeries — a failure that completely undermines the reason HTTPS protections exist in the first place.

So Lenovo bows its head, quietly admits to not having thought this through, and regrets its actions, right? Wrong:

The company this morning issued an oddly tone-deaf statement addressing the controversy with equal parts innocence and chutzpah. The Superfish software, Lenovo says, was “to help customers potentially discover interesting products while shopping” — apparently by throwing up related ads while visiting encrypted retail sites, which would otherwise be invisible to the adware.

This might sound like garden-variety horse manure, but Lenovo doubles down with the claim that this purported consumer benefit was the primary reason for installing Superfish on its laptops. It wasn’t — as cynics might suspect — about the cash at all! Well, not much, anyway.

“The relationship with Superfish is not financially significant,” the statement says. “Our goal was to enhance the experience for users. We recognize that the software did not meet that goal and have acted quickly and decisively.”

“Throwing up related ads.” The users I know would throw up a hell of a lot more than that if you inflict crapware — excuse me, “potentially unwanted programs,” as the antivirus guys say — upon them. The idea that someone might actually want that crap is so utterly improbable that one almost suspects it came from Washington.

Meanwhile:

A sprint over there with a Dell produces “Untrusted Connection,” exactly as it should.

Comments (2)




In need of a lift

Two weeks after becoming, however briefly, the darling of the nation, James Robertson, the man who walked across Detroit every day for over a decade to get to his job in the next county, has been targeted by scum:

The story of the 56-year-old Detroit factory worker who walks 21 miles to and from work each day warmed the hearts of the nation after his tale of perseverance went viral. Some $350,000 was raised for Robertson — not to mention, a local Ford dealership gave him a brand-new 2015 Ford Taurus.

But shortly after the hype started to die down, Robertson told Vice News that he’d received death threats and that his fears increased when he learned that Arthur Neal, an 86-year-old who claimed he’d hit the lottery for $20,000, was found stabbed to death on Feb. 1 in a house not far from where Robertson was living.

According to Vice News, Robertson’s girlfriend, her adult son and her ex-husband — all of whom live in the boarding house where Robertson was paying $200 for rent — began pressuring Robertson, who hasn’t received any money yet, for a payday.

Detroit’s police have been helping Robertson out:

The Detroit police, who believed that Robertson’s car would be stolen, allowed Robertson to park in their lot and recently escorted Robertson back to the house to gather his belongings so that he could move.

“We had a meeting with him [and] he expressed interest that he did not feel safe,” Police Capt. Aric Tosqui told the Detroit Free Press.

File under “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Comments (3)




Not necessarily frequency response

Joni Mitchell once sang “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio.” This might have been one of her better metaphors of the day, though she admitted later on that what motivated her was not so much good old primitive lust as the desire to present her record label with a hit single so they’d quit pestering her. (This makes it the moral equivalent of, say, “Elenore” by the Turtles.)

Jack Baruth retunes that particular phrasing:

I’ve often said that female emotion is not FM, it’s AM. In other words, if you want to sleep with a woman, it doesn’t particularly matter whether she loves or hates you. What’s important is the strength of that emotion. If a woman tells you that you are the worst person on earth and that she prays for your violent death twice a day, you might as well start filing another notch on your guitar. If, on the other hand, she tells her friends that you “seem like a nice guy, I guess,” chances are you’ll be available for your nightly guild meeting in WoW after all.

I would contrast this with my own experience, except that no one listens to shortwave anymore.

Comments (6)




iWheels

Yours truly, mid-2006:

[B]y now everybody knows the joke about how if Microsoft built cars, they would run only on MS-GAS, and they would crash twice a day for no apparent reason.

(We will not discuss Bill Gates’ desire to reinvent the toilet.)

Now, all of a sudden, everyone is talking Apple as carmaker, presumably as rival to Google, and this is the new joke:

Windows vs. Apple cars

At least you can replace the battery on the Windowsmobile.

Comments (2)




One of the cooler jobs

A tour of duty in Antarctica today isn’t quite the death-defying adventure it was in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s day, but it’s hardly a sinecure either:

It is freezing, smelly, and you may be gone some time. Applicants to run the world’s most southerly post office have been warned about the harsh realities of the life they would endure in the Antarctic.

The successful candidates will spend five months on Goudier, an island “the size of a football pitch” just off the Antarctic peninsula, sorting the mail at Port Lockroy, a former British scientific base.

There is little danger of being savaged by a stray dog while handling the mail, but the post office workers must be able to “dodge” the island’s colony of 2,000 penguins.

For £1,100 a month, they will be expected to dig out snow, keep smiling in temperatures that dip below 5F (-15C), and go for a month without taking a shower, as there is no running water.

One takes a job like this, I suspect, to amaze the grandchildren thirty-odd years later. The image of the Antarctic appears on the television; you shrug and say “Been there.” The kids will be either utterly awed or completely dismissive, and if the latter, the generation in between will be all “No, really, he was.” (Or else, right?)

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Comments (1)




Occasionally hounded

Weighing in on the Westminster results, Ann Coulter:

This is true. The following periods had no Beagle wins at all:

  • 1907-2006
  • 2008-2014

I mention in passing that there have been 18 Fox Terrier winners: 14 wire, 4 smooth. (The 1992 winner, Ch. Registry’s Lonesome Dove, once growled at me.)

Comments (2)




Opening salvo

City Council elections are the third of March, and I expect a deluge of mail and more phone calls than I can possibly answer, even if I were going to answer them, which I’m not. And if you’d asked me after the filing period ended in January, I’d have said that basically it was a two-man race, between incumbent/loose cannon Ed Shadid and OCU professor James Cooper, and it was just a matter of which one strikes first.

First strike, in the form of the first mail flyer and the first phone call, came Tuesday, from Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. He’s about sixty, I’d guess. And he has credentials out the wazoo, as the jrank.org Major L. Jemison Biography reports:

A political activist, an innovative church leader, and a bridge-builder between African-American denominations, he has addressed a great variety of issues that are central to the development of the modern black church. President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention since 2002, he stepped into a position once held by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2003 Jemison was recognized by Ebony magazine as one of the 100-plus most influential figures in black America.

He has, of course, retired from that position by now. And his issues page looks almost like my issues page, especially with this paragraph:

The last four years have seen bitterness and divisiveness infect the business of the council, where before there was unity and collaboration. Major Jemison seeks to restore the council to a positive working environment where disagreements are handled professionally and each council member works together in the best interests of the people.

So far, I’m liking what I’m hearing.

Comments off




Purely by coincidence

I don’t think there’s anything particularly unusual about this sales pitch:

Last 10X Longer In Bed
It has never felt so good

And they’d like you to think that “10X” is being cautious, because:

I took this on Valentines Day and went from lasting 2 minutes to over 35.

So: a factor of seventeen, then?

I wouldn’t have noticed it at all, in fact, except for the minor detail that the bogus name they conjured up for the sender accidentally duplicated the name of someone I never actually took to bed — but might have wanted to.

Comments off




Outdoctrination

Last year, Oklahoma barred the use of any of that greasy Common Core stuff; said Governor Fallin, “We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core.”

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren’t. This incident makes me wonder:

The legality of teaching Advanced Placement courses in Oklahoma public schools was raised Monday during a House Common Education Committee hearing on a bill aimed at the AP U.S. history guidelines.

That measure, House Bill 1380, by Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, would direct the state Board of Education to review those guidelines and bar the use of state funds for AP U.S. history courses.

Where Dan Fisher lurks, can Sally Kern be far behind?

It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter.

I sat down and read the actual course description in question — you can too [pdf] — and I think this guideline explains the knotted state of the GOP’s BVDs:

It is the nature of history as a discipline that claims and statements about the past are subject to differences in interpretation. But because the concept outline is the result of careful research into colleges’ requirements for credit and placement, it is essential for the AP Program to provide teachers with visibility into these findings.

And as we all know, for certain values of “we,” colleges today are primarily tasked with turning out neo-Bolsheviks for the New World Order, or some such business.

Fisher’s objection, basically, is that there’s not enough “We’re great! And they suck!” Like anyone would take his word for it. My most reasonable conclusion: yes, there is a reason for American exceptionalism — and there are also exceptions to it.

Comments (3)




Day after Day

At some time point while I was seriously undergrown, I had an insufficiently mild crush on Doris Day. I have no idea why; I do know, however, that one day I was watching something she was doing on television, and I couldn’t look away to save my life.

It wasn’t this image:

Doris Day: The Essential Collection

This is the artwork for a Warner Home Video DVD to be released in April. Curiously, there is a second set, due out the same day, with a different set of pictures, released by rival Universal. It contains Pillow Talk, whence cometh this iconic screengrab:

Doris Day in Pillow Talk

But by the time I’d seen this image for the first time, I’d already been inundated with pre-adolescent hormonal whatever.

Comments (1)




But no commute

Oh, my, here’s another appeal to one’s kindness gullibility:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: My mother and I need a new car, but can't afford one. How do we get a new car on a tight budget? (We don't trust used ones.)

Perhaps this may have occurred to you:

If so, be assured that they find your lack of sympathy disturbing:

My mother and I have health problems that make it hard to fulfill any commitments to a boss.

We’ve had people like that before. They didn’t stay long, for obvious reasons. And the bus stops right in front of the office, too.

Comments (4)




Coldest before the sunrise

The Historical Weather item on NWS Radio this morning pointed to record highs on this date in 2011 — 80°F in Oklahoma City, 84 in Wichita Falls, 73 in Nowata — and then noted that record lows had been set just seven days before. I distinctly (accent on “stinct”) remember hitting five below. Which is a hell of a swing: 85 degrees Fahrenheit in one week. Still, that’s February in this state, and 85 isn’t even that notable. Look at Nowata. On 10 February 2011 they got down to a ghastly -31°F, followed by that rebound to 73. That’s a 104-degree swing.

Lynn was dealing with twenty below on that day in 2011:

It actually doesn’t feel that much colder than -10° but maybe I needed to stay out a little longer to really feel it. I keep looking at the weather forecast for the next seven days and seeing that it predicts 65°F for the middle of next week and it seems like the ravings of some lunatic prophet. Can it ever really be that warm again?

It can, and sure enough, it was. Even Boston and New York will thaw at some point this year — though probably not in one week.

Comments (3)




Before you even get to mood

First you must establish the voice:

But the absolute best of us don’t even have to mention donuts at all:

Color me awed.

Comments (2)




Always be careful where you stick it

You never know when something like this may pop up:

I have no idea what the words outside the dialog box mean, but I suspect a Blue Screen of Death is either imminent or present.

Comments (1)




Gee, your car smells horrific

One actual Chinese automobile manufacturer — Guangzhou Automobile Group — showed actual Chinese automobiles at the North American International Show in Detroit, with greatest emphasis on the GS4, a wee SUV with questionable offroad capabilities. The last-generation-Kia looks weren’t too offputting, but oh, the stench!

Standing about 18-24 inches from the car, in the open doorway, the chemical odor was stronger than any “new car smell” I’ve ever experienced. If this is what it smelled like in the relatively cool concourse of Cobo Hall in January, one can only imagine how strong the offgassing would be on a hot summer day with the car sitting in the sun.

Still, I give GAC props for the “GS4” name: it makes Cadillac’s upcoming “CT6” sound just as callow and boring as it really is.

Comments (3)




We never owned her

What a life Lesley Gore had: a #1 hit while she was still in secondary school, production by the peerless Quincy Jones, a guest slot on the Batman TV series, an actual album for Motown, and finally true love.

“It’s My Party” was the big hit, but this was her anthem:

The fact that the song was written by a couple of guys — John Madara and David White, also composers of such tumultuous tunes as “442 Glenwood Avenue” by the Pixies Three — didn’t matter in the least; nor did the blatant patriarchy-ness of Lesley’s followup, “That’s the Way Boys Are,” by two different guys (Mark Barkan and Ben Raleigh).

Lesley’s official coming-out was about ten years ago, but before that there was Grace of My Heart, a grievously undernoticed Brill Building saga from 1996, written and directed by Allison Anders, to which Gore contributed a lyric. “My Secret Love,” sung by Miss Lily Banquette, then of Combustible Edison, is as blatant as anything in the k. d. lang songbook, and it even sounds like Gore.

I reviewed “Ever Since,” her most recent album, in 2005. I never imagined it would be her last.

Comments (1)