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Politics, Not Ethics

December 10, 2014

I’ve generally stayed away from the whole debate around our government using coercive methods to get information from terrorist detainees.  However, Andy McCarthy makes a valid point in this post that is similar to some of the thoughts I’ve had in the past… of course, he articulates them much better.  That’s why he’s a great writer, and I blog for six people.

If you were to take everyone in America who is serving a minor jail sentence of say, 6 to 18 months, and you were to ask them whether they’d rather serve the rest of their time or be waterboarded in the manner practiced by the CIA post 9/11 (i.e., not in the manner practiced by the Japanese in World War II), how many would choose waterboarding? I am guessing, conservatively, that over 95 percent would choose waterboarding.

Now, if you take the same group of inmates and ask them whether they’d prefer to serve the remainder of their time or be subjected to Obama’s drone program (where we kill rather than capture terrorists, therefore get no intelligence from the people in the best position to provide actionable intelligence, and kill bystanders – including some children – in addition to the target), how many would choose the drone program? I am guessing that it would be … zero.

Long before any details of the OBL raid came out, I commented that there was never any intent to bring him back alive.  Alive he’d be too much of a political football for the current administration to stomach, and it was a lot easier to knock him off, claim a great victory, and then remind people about it for years.  Let me see, what was one of the 2012 campaign slogans again…?

What I think most people forget is that we’re at war with a shadow entity that is not a nation, plays by no standard rules, and is uninterested in traditional victory.  I can’t tell you how to fight back, but it’s not through random strikes that leave us further in the dark.

I’m Insulted, You’re Hacked

December 10, 2014

You want to know how easy hacking is these days?  All you have to do is be mad enough, and have money, and you’re in.  Want to get mad, have someone make a movie about assassinating your boss.  He’ll get mad enough to have you hack the offender.

Federal officials ‘warned’ Sony that their planned film about an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un could provoke retaliation from the hermit state.

It is claimed that officials in the Department of Homeland Security held a secret off-the-record briefing with senior executives from the film company about the comedy ‘The Interview’.

Sony has been the victim of a number of high profile cyber attacks in recent weeks with some of their movies leaked online, while confidential information on employees and stars has also been placed on the internet.

At this point, I think it’s best to just hack the Tea Party.  They’ll get dismissed by the press as dangerous, and they’re mostly too civil to go destroy you.  Despotic communist regimes?  Not so much.  My general take is that it’s a bad idea to mess with any form of government, because it can redirect your own funds — and those of all your neighbors — to make your life suck.

And really, who takes North Korea seriously?  Well, anyone who makes a couple awful movies about taking them down.  And with the sophistication of hacking tools that I’ve talked about in various posts… well, Sony didn’t have a chance.  While the revelations coming out aren’t on the Snowden level of embarrassing and infuriating, I’d bet they’re going to get quite a bit of egg on the face over some of the things that come out.

Oh, and the DHS, “briefing?”  Wanna’ bet that someone in the US Government was watching the chatter, or maybe even the start of the probes, to see what was about to happen?

So North Korea is one thing.  I wonder what happens when ISIS decides to stop knocking off everyone who might be innovative and decides instead to pay them to wage a real cyber-jihad?  The world might not be a very safe place.  We’re only lucky that those guys are this generations Khmer Rouge so far.  Let’s be optimistic and assume they just knock themselves back to the stone age.

You Provide Your Employee Benefits

December 9, 2014

I thought this post from the Reg was interesting.  The popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the IT world is getting big enough that companies are building products to enable it.

A new service piggybacks a company number on the back of the employee’s personal number to save money for both and make Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) easier.

The idea of people wanting to use their own mobile but have work pay for calls opens a can of worms. The spectre of BYOD brings with it the issue of who pays for calls and who owns the number.

This is an IT cycle that happened really fast.  It was probably less than five years ago that many people were carrying multiple phones because work required one thing, and they personally wanted something different.  And this led to all sorts of confusion as they would gradually abandon the work phone for the nicer personal phone they would buy.  So the solution: let people buy whatever they want, and then drop some company-owned apps on it so that the personal phone becomes useful for work.

I have to admit, I find this somewhat cynical and opportunistic on the part of the companies that do it.  When this first hit, I made the comment that it wouldn’t take long before the company required the employee to buy a personal device for work, and I also wondered just how long it might take before the company got to dictate what things the person could do on their own device.

We’re not quite there yet, but just watch… But the employee base only has itself to blame.  The demand to use whatever tech you can in the job is making it hard for the company to really own anything.  So the company responds by doing what it can as cheaply as it can to make the employees think they’re happy.

Of course, I abandoned all hope of having a productive relationship with my company regarding ways to access me easier when I wasn’t in front of the computer.  It was probably six years ago that I took my phone off the corporate plan and took the number out of the company directory.  Yes, it means I have to pay for my own phone, but it also means that it’s my choice as to how it’s then used for work.  But then again, I’m a total Luddite, and I still use my PC exclusively to do work stuff.

So, I’m an interested observer to what’s going to happen.  And I’m waiting to see how this blows up next.

Tripping Silently Into Debt

December 2, 2014

As I’ve noted, I’ve been pretty busy lately, so maybe I just missed it.  But last year I saw all sorts of news programs highlighting every time we’d cross a debt milestone.  Now I have to notice it on a blog?

Congratulations, America! You, or rather your elected officials, smashed through the $18 trillion ceiling last week, raising the United States government’s total outstanding public debt to new heights and leaving shards of devalued greenbacks scattered around the place.

Congratulations, J.D. Tuccille, for caring.

I remember getting into an argument with my dad about 12 years ago when George W. Bush was in office.  My take was that he was not being a decent conservative in that he had no concerns about the national debt.  If you look around, you’ll find a video of him jousting with a reporter during his campaign about it, so he had always been on that track.  My dad didn’t appear concerned, saying it was mostly a problem for a future generation.

Well, that was about one third of the problem ago.  We’re now at $18T in debt with no budgetary end in sight.  In the least, the Republican congress is likely to actually, you know, do their freaking job and submit a budget next year, rather than just letting what’s already killing us slide on.  But I don’t expect significant cuts in the budget, and I also don’t expect any significant change in tax revenues.  So, we’ll borrow.

It’s really odd.  The “good economic progress” that we have is really all smoke and mirrors.  Unemployment is down more because large portions of people stopped looking for work, and they’re only slowly coming back into the picture.  Interest rates are low because we’ve been engaging in QE for most of this period. Even if that’s ended, we tried to print our way out of the mess.

I’m not hoarding up my canned goods and ammo because we’re so far in debt. (I might be getting better prepared, but not because of the debt.)  But I’m still very non-pony-finding-like in my concerns for the future when we’re ignoring key indicators that make us very unhealthy.

Big Business Does It Better?

December 1, 2014

Not necessarily, but some models don’t scale well.  You’ll have to hang with me for a second, but check out this post from The Register.

Amazon has suspended next day delivery in Blighty after reporting its busiest day on record.

This decision could mean the families of last-minute present hunters will go without gifts on Christmas Day, because The Reg understands express delivery will not begin until the New Year.

There’s a list of items that were ordered and not given options for next-day shipping.  Later in the article, you see this (but really, go read the whole thing).

Xavier Garambois, vice-president of EU retail at Amazon, was flabbergasted at the size of the Black Friday sales rush.

He said: “Ever since we introduced Black Friday to the UK in 2010, sales have increased year-on-year but this year really has surpassed all of our expectations.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are increasingly influencing EU online shopping, particularly in the UK,” said analyst Michelle Beeson. “These traditionally US sales days may seem irrelevant now, but retail heavyweights like Apple and Amazon have a track record of influencing consumer behavior and setting new standards in Europe.”

So, there are quite a few nice bits in here.  First, the efforts to introduce, “deals” goes worldwide, and it affects everyone who needs a bit of cheap (or expensive) junk in the same way.  BUY, BUY, BUY!  I suppose the need to have junk goes beyond national boarders.

(For the record, we did buy something this weekend.  We’re not immune.)

But more interesting to me is that Amazon doesn’t have the capability in their current model to scale to the level of retail logistics.  Mind you, this hasn’t been proven to be in America yet, but still, the model broke.

Amazon really isn’t doing anything truly revolutionary.  It’s still retail, just a much bigger store.  People go there to buy things and take them home, but the “go” and “take” are changed.  Amazon has counted on parcel delivery to be the last mile, and that appears to have broken in England.  We could probably dig around and find places in England where a store ran out of stock on something and disappointed the people who had driven or bussed there, I suppose.  But this makes the “revolutionary” aspect of the Internet a little more mundane, no?

So now here’s something to watch in the battle for the future of retail.  Will we see the last mile strain in other places as the increase in cyber purchasing rises?  Does this mean that the model is completely broken, and has to be redone (drone delivery anyone?) in the future?  Will people instead opt for getting back in the car for instant gratification?

I suspect this is a blip that will be corrected, but still… very interesting to read.

Architecture for What You Can’t Build

November 24, 2014

Hey, anyone up for doing a bunch of research on something doesn’t exist?  In tech, that’s the norm.

Ericsson and IBM have announced a collaboration to jointly research phased-array antenna designs for 5G, which might prove interesting as nothing has yet been agreed on what 5G might involve.

Crucially for this work, nobody’s yet decided what frequencies 5G will operate on – although Ericsson has previously said it’s looking for 500MHz of contiguous spectrum at above 6GHz and that the technology will be an evolution of LTE.

Hey, what the heck.  Just because nobody knows what it is, doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about what it could be.  To the point, wireless has always had to balance three factors: number of connections, bandwidth to the connection, and physical distance of the connection.  Most of the time, the number was fixes, and the distance was defined by where you could stick a tower, so it all came down to the bandwidth.  Which means that the bandwidth always suffered.

For the future, I expect that the big change will be, as the article states, directional antennas.  The implication is that micro-cells can be installed to focus on very set areas, with rapid hops from cell to cell.  In really population-dense areas, this could mean a cell every quarter mile or maybe less.  In this way, the bandwidth can be significantly increased, even over what you’d normally see with that much spectrum available.

Of course, radios that have to operate at this frequency will have to be completely redesigned.  If you ever experienced frustration with the battery life on 4G phones… the radios were not significantly changed from the 3G, but the frequency was increased.  That killed battery life as fast as the expanded screens did.  So whatever happens for the next generation, we’d better hope that some good analog engineers are available to do some power saving.

But anyway, this is cool, and it promises to advance connectivity to be even better as time goes on.  The change in the world in the last couple decades continues to astound me.  I can’t wait for technology to completely pass me by, if it hasn’t already.

“God Bless This Country We Love”

November 20, 2014

I just watched our president’s immigration speech.  I’m sure I could be snarky and impressed about a lot of things.  One thing I heard, though, was interesting.

“God bless this country we love.” (and dramatic walking away)

Um, what country is that?  “This country we love.”:  Um, America?  Mexico?  Botswana?

Really, I have no desire to be in politics.  I’m impressed by those who do want to be there.  I would gladly shake any president’s hand for doing a job I’d never want to do.  But really, “God bless this country we love?”

God Bless America


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