Can We Do Te Same For Pastrami and Bacon?

Industry wary of alternatives tries to protect a word: meat | WTOP

Nebraska lawmakers will consider a bill this year defining meat as “any edible portion of any livestock or poultry, carcass, or part thereof” and excluding “lab-grown or insect or plant-based food products.” It would make it a crime to advertise or sell something “as meat that is not derived from poultry or livestock.”

As more and more marketing people try to get the general public to fall for their new and improved usually faux healthy product, like nut water, or margarine, instead of milk, or butter, the blurring of the lines between what we know it is and what the marketing doublespeak wants us to believe it is will only get broader.

Even foods that should be clearly delineated, like bacon, seem to now come with qualifiers, and the qualifiers are rather odd. I have yet to encounter the full shift I have seen with coffee (you now have to explicitly say you want your coffee hot), but I do not think we are far away. When I order pastrami, being asked to define whether I want beef or turkey probably makes several in the smoked meat business cringe. Bacon now comes as pork (the so far default), turkey, or tofu (when you are eating something called tofu, bacon is the last thing that comes to mind).

Many people have decided to cut meat out of their diet. That is just fine. However, please, do not confuse your need to follow rabid diet models with the public’s need to be able to identify their food. Meat only comes from animals, milk from cows or goats, and keep your ground up nuts out of my water. I need them for my Chex Mix.

Is This The Beginning of the End of Social Media?

As we approach the end of 2018, only people that have not been around the Internet for more than a microsecond are not wondering what will become of social media. In case you have not been paying attention, we are down to two social media players. Failbook (and their associated properties) and Twitter. So that, ladies and gentlemen, is it. On December 17, the exodus from Tumblr, the last pseudo-independent platform began as Verizon ordered all adult content remove. Now Verizon owns three failed platforms – the remains of AOL, the bad parts of Yahoo, and Tumblr. Zuckerbergland is composed of Failbook, Instasomething, and Whywoudyouuseitapp. Twitter is hanging on by a thread, but it is skating on thin ice. Snapchat is circling the drain, and other companies like MeWe and Diaspora are trying, unsuccessfully to fill the gap. G+? Well, Google is shutting it down, and it was a ghost town anyway (at least according to the technical press) and with a second data leak, Google has announced that it is closing G+ by April, instead of later in the year as they had originally announced. Not that it matters, most of the G+ communities have already shuttered their circles and moved on to Plusporia and similar nodes.

So why the end of social media? Well, you probably were asleep when Australia announced it is demanding the ability to crack encrypted streams. They claim, at the moment, that they are not asking for backdoors, but as a member of Five Eyes, it is only a matter of time before the US asks for a similar ability. Then do you think any encryption is valid? Meaning that anything you post online, you might as well post on a postcard and send it to your nearest newspaper. Many have already been doing this of course, but if you are not a fan of walled gardens, then does it matter?

I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of walled gardens. So as we go into 2019, and my options are reduced to Zuckerbergland or … well, this site, I am choosing this site. My G+ ID will remain for a bit. I am debating closing that account, but I have begun the process of closing all my other online profiles, Twitter, and email accounts. I do not need them, and they do not offer any value beyond taking up bandwidth, so why maintain them.

A return to the real Internet may be just what the doctor ordered. What about you?

New Year, New Keys

When I first created my PGP keys, all those years ago, I created them with PGP. And for some reason, that I am not sure of, they were created as only 1024 bit keys. So as part of my new year clean up, I have revoked my keys and issued new ones at 4096 bit.

The revoked fingerprints are as follows:

For the ARRL account:

5C44 E28D 49FE 24D6 A9DA  1545 CD57 C291 0A53 3C19

For my Gmail account:

2428 CE82 2E0C E6B7 E1E3  8D84 85BD BF93 B6CF CE1B

The new fingerprints are:

For the ARRL account:

7AB2 2840 5C8F 7427 78E3  9105 9DCE F014 AE06 230B

and for my Gmail account:

1E01 F6F2 E5C7 9405 336C  4E89 4128 6E0B 102B 8367

As usual, the keys are at your neighborhood public key server or you can download them below. These keys were generated with GPG, but they will be usable in any PGP/GPG program.

ARRL:

-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

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=T6TL
-----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

gmail:

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-----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

Apple’s TOCK upgrade

Yesterday, Apple announced the biggest iPhone ever, with stunning new displays. They also introduced a new watch that will read your EKG better, stronger, faster. Yawn. Sorry, what?

If this morning’s mullet wrappers (as an old boss used to call the tech press) are any indication, they are less thrilled then I am about the new Apple hardware. Lead on Computerworld this morning? A review of five digital whiteboards. Apple’s releases were the fifth bullet down behind Slack adds enterprise key management and How you can train for your MCSA and MCSE certifications (a house ad).

A couple of days ago, one of the luminaries in the Apple world asked Has Apple lost its shine? A valid question, especially related to the release yesterday. Sure, there are those that will go gaga over the new hardware, but those of us that have been in IT for more than a couple of months don’t pay attention to new processors unless we need a feature in that new processor. And when it is only a tock (speed, security) upgrade, we really do not get excited.

Apple will continue to promote its new devices. The iDevice market is a considerable part of their revenue stream so they really cannot do anything else. But when the most exciting thing is the camera (and I can buy better glass for my DSLR for less money then they will ever be able to stuff in a phone case), perhaps Apple really has lost its way.

One minor thing of note. In iOS 12, there will now be almost complete support for the reading of NFC tags. I say this is a slight note because the NFC people have been asking for this for more than a decade when it first appeared in Android devices. Thanks for joining the planet Apple.

Auto-start Auto-stop Engines

I recently had the opportunity to drive a car with these new auto-start/auto-stop engines. You know the type. You are standing next to an idling car, and suddenly the engine stops. In the old days, we called it a stall, but new engines are doing it for fuel savings and saving the environment. I am all for protecting the environment, but I am not a huge fan of these engines. Let me explain.

These were first seen in high-end Mercedes and BMW cars. Today, they are everywhere that is not a hybrid. The idea, as I said, is to reduce carbon emissions while at idle, something most cars do a lot of in urban environments. Idling creates a lot of carbon because the gas does not fully combust, unlike when the vehicle is in motion (not entirely sure why) and it also creates a pocket of concentrated CO2 gas, along with some other not so healthy gases. So anything that makes idling cleaner is a good thing.

The problem comes about when you need to actually get going again. Because the engine actually stops, there is a brief delay before it gets started again. This is a bad thing in certain situations.

For example, if you are anything but number one in line, the delay in getting the engine started, and the gears engaged (all of which is automatic) is not a big deal. The three or four-tenths of a second it takes is manageable and usually is accounted for by the car in the number one slot getting his vehicle moving. Not a big deal.

However, if you are in the number one slot, and the car behind you is not suffering from waiting for his engine to start, you are going to get honked at, at the very least. I had a couple of near collisions simply because it took that much longer to get the car moving off the line when the light turned green.

The second issue is safety. I was taught, when I learned to drive a stick shift, that you never ride the clutch. The engine should be engaged at all times. The problem is that the sensor that puts the engine to sleep when you are idling at a traffic light does not know the difference between idling at a traffic light and waiting to make a left-hand turn. I had the engine cut out just as I had an opening to make a turn and missed the opportunity because the engine was off and had to restart. Fortunately, there was no one behind me trying to make the light as well. This is not safe. The same is true with stop and go driving. I had the engine shut off just as I went to touch the accelerator.

Finally, a minor note. The engine shutting off also shuts off the air conditioner. It will kick back on, but I can see where hot climates will result in higher in-cabin temperatures, especially in stop and go driving, where the engine shutting off actually makes it more uncomfortable inside for the passengers. Again, I cannot see this as a win.

I am sure someone has done the math, and everyone is perfectly happy with the reduced emissions, while the safety issues are perceived as minor. As a driver, I do not find that these sorts of engines are good, or safe. Time will tell.

I Need A Specific Browser?

The only browser that the system supports is IE , Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. We recommend the most (sic) IE browser.

Excuse me while I check the calendar. Yup, it does say it is December, 2016. And yes, that is a message I received from a web site that I was having trouble entering data on. Data that is mission critical. Data, that is consumed by a python application on the back end where the servers that are serving the data are Linux based and the processing is done in an AWS environment. And yet, the code the browser is using is specifically written to run best on Microsoft Internet Explorer. And I wish I could say this is an anomoly. I am still encountering websites that require Flash, or versions of IE that are so old that their security risks have security risks. And yet that is the state of the art in a day when most people are making transations via the mobile devices, which are either on i-devices (which primarily run Safari) or Android devices, that primarily run Chrome. Sure you can load Chrome on to i-devices, or other browsers, but 99% of users do not, and for a good reason. Why would you?

I abandoned Windows completely about a year ago for Mac. Yes, I still have one laying around somewhere, but I have not turned it on in several months, and it would take hours to come up to speed with the 10,000 patches that probably need to be applied. But even I do not use my Mac that much anymore. For example this post is being written on my iPad. Yesterday I was doing a number of things in my AWS envrionment from this same iPad. And if I had a monitor handy, I could do it from my iPhone. Why do I need to carry a laptop anymore? Why do I need to have a specific operating system any more. I do not need a specific a browser to create this post, so why do I need a specific browser to type in data to a form on a web site! This is not 1999. If you are still restricting your broswers, it is time to upgrade your application development. Or you will lose customers. Or at least annoy them to the point that they will not be giving you good reviews on-line.

Fountain for Scriptwriting

I recently discovered fountain, a markdown syntax specifically designed for script writing. i have done a couple of experiments with it, both quite successful. The real test though is how well it imports into Celtx, my script writing software of choice. And I must say it works pretty well. i had to make a couple of minor corrections with parentheticals. I made a couple of errors when I composed the base document, but that was easily remedied and when I corrected the base document, it imported cleanly.

I have been an avid user of Celtx for years. The product is solid and has a robust user community. Their updates are well thought out and their Studio application/eco-system that supports more than just writing scrips is great for those on a budget. The only negative is that it is web based (with some features available for iOS). In most cases this is not a big show stopper, unless, like me, you are disconnected when you do your primary writing. The iOS apps do allow for off-line editing, but what about when I am using my Linux desktop?

Celtx no longer supports their desktop client (and I never could get it to run on Linux properly), so for these situations, the fountain format is a great find. It has a robust ecosystem around it and is also good for those who are just starting out and looking for an entry into script writing.

Experienced script writers will like a number of power features that allow you to go from treatment to script in the same document, depending on how you post-process it. And because it is an open standard, it allows you to store and reprocess scripts over time. A major plus as the software landscape is always changing.

Another nice feature is the ability to embed script segments into a blog with a nice WordPress plug in. As you can see, it is quite a nice little feature, and no additional work on my part than wrapping the text.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

The door crashes open and BILL TURNER crashes into the room, blood pouring from two gun shot wounds. He is holding his abdomen as he staggers and falls to his knees. ALICE GEORGE is sitting on the couch.

ALICE

(screams)

Who are you! What are you doing here?

BILL

Currently bleeding. Call 9-1-1!

Bill falls to the floor.

If you are not already familiar with it, I encourage you to look into it and see if it fits your needs. I am more than happy with what it provides.

Windows 10 Security Issues are not Overblown

As a technology professional, I have been reading ComputerWorld for most of my career. Most of the time, the information in it is useful and occasionally biased. But the bias is easy to pick out and people will generally roll their eyes and move on. However, today, while reading a different article, I came across an August 25, 2015 article by Preston Gralla on 4 overblown Windows 10 worries that made my jaw hit the floor and actually question if Preston is working directly for Microsoft, because I cannot imaging an objective journalist writing some of the things he says, at least a journalist with any technical skill whatsoever.

Now, I am going to start by saying that Windows 8, as an operating system had a number of problems that really made me wonder what Microsoft was thinking, but the more I hear about Windows 10, the more I am convinced that Microsoft knows exactly what I am thinking, and what they are thinking runs diametrically against what most technicians and other IT professionals (especially security professionals) feel and operating system should be doing. The article tackles four key features of Windows 10 that have security people (and others concerned about digital privacy and security) pretty much wrapped around the axel.

First: Wi-Fi Sense will share all your passwords

Preston say this is not true, then goes on to explain why it is. He also says it is a good and necessary thing.

The concept behind Wi-Fi Sense is a solid one: To make it easier for visitors to find and connect to Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi Sense lets you share your network with others without seeing the actual network passwords – the passwords are encrypted and stored on Microsoft’s servers so they aren’t visible to outside users.

Let me explain. Wi-fi Sense shares your passwords with other users and they are stored on Microsoft’s servers. Oh, sure, they are encrypted, but are they encrypted with your keys? Do you control the revocation of the passwords? If you answered yes, please box up your PC and return it to where you bought it. The fact that this feature is enabled by default is a massive security hole. He tries to bloviate by saying it was invented by a similar idea invented by the Open Wireless Movement, but you can be sure the OWM had much less specific user information in mind for its implementation than what Microsoft has implemented. He goes on to say you have to take another step to actually share the key. Again, that it is enabled by default is a bad idea. The second step is merely a feel-good panacea. And since most home users do not have good network security, the myth that users on your network will not be able to get to other resources is just that a myth. This feature should not be part of any implementation of any operating system. If I want someone to have access to my Wi-Fi, I will provide them that access in a way that does not jeopardize my network, nor provides critical infrastructure information to an unknown third-party system.

Second: Windows 10 updates are automatically installed on your system, and that is a bad thing.

Says Preston:

The concern here is that, unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows 10 doesn’t give you a choice about when (or which) Windows updates will be installed on your computer. What Microsoft sends to you will be installed, whether you like it or not, and as a result, an update could break something on your PC – for example, a driver for a peripheral like a printer.

The truth is much more sinister.

It’s true that if you have the Windows 10 Home edition, you don’t have a choice about installing Windows 10 updates – Microsoft sends them and your system installs them.

And the fact is that most people have will be running Windows 10 Home. And you really should have a choice about what you will install because while most of Microsoft’s core patches are necessary, I have spend hours helping my less technologically savvy friends recover from a bad patch, or roll back a peripheral patch that caused a once working device to fail. And it happens more than anyone would like to admit.

I am all for installing patches and keeping your systems as current as possible, but not all patches should be blindly installed and certainly not on the day they are released. Let other people be the Guinea pigs. This is especially true with some of the less than successful browser updates in Microsoft’s past.

Third: Microsoft’s use of peer-to-peer networking for Windows updates will slow down your network connection.

Says Preston:

With Windows 10, Microsoft uses a trick borrowed from peer-to-peer networking apps like BitTorrent in order to distribute updates more efficiently. Rather than have everyone get updates from a central server, the updates are also delivered from PC to PC.

Microsoft “BITS” service has been around for a long time. Systems Management Server and the updated Systems Center Configuration Manager have used BITS for distributing files across low-bandwidth links. Preston likens the model to the way Bit Torrent works. But unless you have a slow bandwidth (and some do), this is actually not an effective way to deliver packets for an update. Further, there is a risk that the Peer-to-Peer network can be infiltrated. I fully expect that there will be a viable penetration before year-end if there is not one already. Again, you can turn it off, but it should not be enabled by default to begin with.

Fourth: Windows 10 is a privacy nightmare.

Well, honestly, it is. Preston even admits it by saying:

Most of the fears have to do with Windows 10’s default privacy settings, created during the installation if you use the express install option. With those default options, Windows 10 will send your calendar and contact details to Microsoft; assign you an advertising ID that can track you on the Internet and, when using Windows apps, track your location; and send your keystrokes and voice input to Microsoft.

He goes on to say that you can turn them all off. Two things wrong with this. First, opt-in, not opt-out should be the default setting for anything being sent anywhere. Period, end of sentence. Secondly, there are still a number of things that security professional are finding being sent to Microsoft even if you turn them off. Compound that by even more errors when you actively block the transmission of data to Microsoft. This is not a secure operating system. This is an information sieve.

What really upsets me is this:

Let’s face it – every time you use a computer, you’re living with tradeoffs between your privacy and getting things done more easily.

No. Privacy should never be a trade-off. Deciding what and when I send information to unknown third-parties should always be my decision, not the decision of an organization that knows better than me. Most home users do not know any better, which means that Microsoft should actively be helping them better protect themselves than exposing them to harm.

He concludes his article with this statement:

But other concerns have been overblown – in many cases you can change the defaults to make the operating system work more to your liking. And other concerns – for example, that Wi-Fi Sense automatically shares your Wi-Fi passwords with your friends and friends of friends – are myths.

No, they are not myths. They are facts, enabled by default, and while some of them can be turned off, the average user needs a much larger skill set than in past versions of Windows. Microsoft is not interested in their customer’s privacy, or security, or these, and other features would not be enabled by default, and that is not a myth.

Using A New Tool

Every now and then, I find a new tool to make my life easier, at least that is the theory. My first new tool was to ditch Microsoft Windows for the MacOS. At least as my primary day-to-day OS. Yes, I spend a large portion of my work day in Linux. At the moment the distribution is Ubuntu, but I spend most of my day staring at a terminal emulator. When I am not doing that, the OS should be something I do not have to think about, and Windows, especially Windows 8, was causing me too much thought. Then with the release of Windows 10 and all the things that are talking back to Microsoft, I decided it was time to try something else. So Mac won, despite the costs.

As many of you know, I have a certain loathing for the Mac. My primary arguement has (and still is) cost. It is just too bloody expensive. It has the advantage of being Unix like under the covers though, and it has a couple of other advantages in terms of photo work that Windows, even with all the RAM I could throw at it, just could not measure up to. So, I bit the bullet and went Mac.

With the conversion, came a couple of new tools, of which this is one – it is a piece of blogging software call Byword, and is a combination text editor, markdown support. It seamlessly connects with my blogging platform (which is good) and supports markdown which is good because more and more of my documents are being written in markdown than they are in anything else. It is more portable and just a better way of doing things. This is the first post with the Byword, and I am doing it more to test out the software than anything else. So here we go.

Hello world!