When Security is Not Secure

There are wide variations in the quality and security of identification used to gain access to secure facilities where there is potential for terrorist attacks. In order to eliminate these variations, U.S. policy is to enhance security, increase Government efficiency, reduce identity fraud, and protect personal privacy by establishing a mandatory, Government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the Federal Government to its employees and contractors (including contractor employees). HSPD-12

The Commonwealth of Virginia is the latest state to move to RealID. And again, I ask, why?

For those who have not followed the issue, following the attacks on September 11, 2001, a number of these Homeland Security Presidential Directives were issued. Number 12 forms the basis for the RealID standard. Other documents in this bucket include the CAC/PIV card used by the Federal Government, Passport, Global Entry, and yes, driver’s licenses. And if you have blindly, or even grudgingly handed over your personal information to these agencies, you probably did not think about the actual directive. But since this new ID allows you to board an aircraft, you probably did not blink. But perhaps you should. After all, unless you are issued a CAC/PIV card, what sort of security is this new ID providing?

I will wait.

Still confused? Let me help you. The process likely goes like this. You handed over your old driver’s license, your passport or immigration status card, your social security number, and some proof of residency to a clerk at the DMV (mine had a passing familiarity with English) and boom, you have a RealID card that will get you access to airplanes, military bases, and other government buildings. You may not get past the front door, but you will get inside. And how does this enhance security? There is no background check run. There are no fingerprints, no FBI file. If, like me, you have had your driver’s license more than a week, all they do is check your eyesight and charge a processing fee. Virginia gives you the option to not get one. For a lower fee.

CAC/PIV cards are completely different. They do a background check. With fingerprints, and an FBI file. But not with most of the other documents.

Feel more secure now? Oh, and China called. They are willing to sell you your file back. For less than the processing fee you just paid.

Electric Cars, and the Distance Problem

What automakers aren’t telling you about electric vehicles | WTOP

There are two critical issues in play that are hampering the wide spread adoption of electric cars in the United States. First:

Cold weather can cut range significantly – by even one third…Lithium ion batteries are subject to temperature sensitivity. In California this is not an issue. In polar vortex conditions, these vehicles wouldn’t get far.

Secondly:

It takes nearly 13 hours for the high-voltage battery to get a full-charge when starting at zero percent …We are used to 5 minutes at the pump and going.

The United States is not a small country. When you consider the road network of North America, it is even bigger. Sure, not everyone drives through the hinterland of Pennsylvania every year, but a large number of people do drive more than 200 miles regularly. When you discount the need for temperature issues, you still have the problem of filling the tank. Several cities are starting to install electric charging stations, but they are one or two per jurisdiction, compared to hundreds of gas pumps. Worse, when you consider that the majority of vehicles are driven to and from work, you would expect that some companies would find it in their best interest to install charging stations. Sadly, most companies rent their space, which means that building management needs to install the chargers. And so far, there has not been a hue and cry requesting them, so they are not installed, which means that commuter has to be aware of their distance, their stop and go, and other features, like air conditioning usage, radio, lights, phone charges, etc. All take a toll on the life of the batteries, which means needing more charging.

Electric cars have some advantages, but so far, the negatives outweigh the positives for most people.

Most Are Looking

Shutdown ‘unnerving, frustrating’ for federal contractors | WTOP

Offering advice to impacted contract workers, Chvotkin said they should stay in close communication with supervisors because their status could change quickly. He also advised to be ready to return to work as soon as possible, if needed.

The reality is that if you are not reporting to work, your resume is already on the street. Fifteen to twenty percent of the contractors working for companies that are unfunded will not be returning to their current assignments. Which will make restarting after the shutdown even harder.

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!