Outdated Thinking

In a post about how security has changed, Josh Bressers had this great bit of info in how some people are living in the past when it comes to understanding technology:

If you listen to my podcast (which you should be doing already), I had a bit of a rant at the start this week about an assignment my son had over the weekend. He wasn’t supposed to use any “screens” which is part of a drug addiction lesson. I get where this lesson is going, but I’ve really been thinking about the bigger idea of expectations and reality. This assignment is a great example of someone failing to understand the world has changed around them.

What I mean is expecting anyone to go without a “screen” for a weekend doesn’t make sense. A substantial number of activities we do today rely on some sort of screen because we’ve replace more inefficient ways of accomplishing tasks with these screens. Need to look something up? That’s a screen. What’s the weather? Screen. News? Screen. Reading a book? Screen!

You get the idea. We’ve replaced a large number of books or papers with a screen.

Your Fitbit can give away your PIN

My grad school Alma Mater, Stevens Institute of Technology has discovered how your Fitbit or Smart watch could give away your PIN:

Stevens researchers discovered that the motions of your hands as you use PIN pads, which is continually and automatically recorded by your device, can be hacked in real time and used to guess your PIN with more than 90 percent accuracy within a few attempts.

The Stevens team outfitted 20 volunteers with an array of fitness wristbands and smart watches, then asked them to make some 5,000 sample PIN entries on keypads or laptop keyboards while “sniffing” the packets of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) data transmitted by sensors in those devices to paired smartphones.

“There are two kinds of potential attacks here: sniffing attacks and internal attacks,” explains Chen. “An adversary can place a wireless ‘sniffer’ close to a key-based security system and eavesdrop sensor data from wearable devices. Or, in an internal attack, an adversary accesses sensors in the devices via malware. The malware waits until the victim accesses a key-based security system to collect the sensor data.”

After capturing accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer data from the devices and using it to calculate typical distances between and directions of consecutive key entries, Chen’s team developed a backward-inference algorithm to predict four-digit PIN codes.

A reason to stick with Raw files instead of DNG

There was a good chunk of time where I was converting all my Canon Raw files into DNG files on the thought that it would be better and make them more readable in the future. But with KDE able to read Canon files as well as the libRaw in Linux – it seemed a waste of time.

This article by a professional photographer gives another reason. Certain software may not be able to produce as good a result from DNG as when the files come unadulterated from the camera.

From the article:

About seven months ago, I downloaded the trial version of Capture One Pro. From the very first shoot I processed using Capture One, I was sold on its ability to make my work even better. As a raw processor, Lightroom can’t touch it. It can’t even. After a month of using CapOne, people had commented that my work had suddenly gotten so much better. Some asked what I was doing differently. Others assumed I drank magic juice and my work got better. Nothing had changed except that I had stopped using Lightroom and started using Capture One exclusively.

And this is where great software vastly differs from basic human colour perception. Raw files contain a lot of data. Lots of colour data. Tonal data. And metadata.

What puts Lightroom and Capture One oceans apart is that Lightroom treats all raw files equally, setting the default camera profile to “Adobe Standard.” You have to go in manually change the camera profile to something like “Camera Portrait” or “Camera Landscape.” (You can set defaults based on camera serial number and build import presets, etc., but until you become a power user, most people don’t even realize that “Adobe Standard” is not a good baseline for any image.)

what is critical to note about Capture One is that it doesn’t ignore the camera metadata. It doesn’t set all images to a default state. In fact, this is what I think is in Capture One’s secret sauce. Instead of assuming all raw files are the same, and even offering to convert your raw files to its own format on input, Capture One uses that data as the fundamental building block upon which the rest of its raw processing is built.

By having integrated countless camera brands, makes and models, Capture One knows how each one of those camera models is built and how each model’s specific sensor interpolates the light hitting its surface and how the camera stores that data in its raw file. Sony makes a majority of the world’s camera sensors (including all Nikon sensors), but the sensors in the Sony A7s and Nikon D810 are vastly different. As are the sensors in the Fuji X100T, the Phase One IQ3 backs, Mamiya Credo 60, Canon 60D, etc.

While the images these cameras produce under the same conditions may not be that noticeable to the human eye, they are incredibly different to a computer program that knows how to read and interpret that raw data. This is why I believe the computer is the defining tool in the photographic process. We can now take the captured data and do extraordinary things with it, but how extraordinary is, as I’ve stated, dependent on the tools we use.

If you take the same raw files (not DNG files!) and open them in both Lightroom and Capture One, side by side, without doing anything to the files, you will notice immediately — IMMEDIATELY — that Capture One does a much better job of accurately rendering the image. The colours are better. The exposure is better. Everything is just better.

It would be awesome if he finished by dropping the mic….

Here’s a letter Governor Jerry Brown sent to Ben Carson when he said that climate change was irrelevant:

Dear Dr. Carson,

I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to the Golden State. It’s come to my attention that while you were here you said the following regarding climate science:

“I know there are a lot of people who say ‘overwhelming science,’ but then when you ask them to show the overwhelming evidence, they never show it…There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused. Gimmie a break.”

Please find enclosed a flash drive with the complete United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Synthesis Report,” the concluding installment of the Fifth Assessment Report, published earlier this year. This report assessed over 30,000 scientific papers and was written by more than 800 scientists, representing 80 countries around the world, who definitively concluded that: “…human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed across all continents and oceans.”

This is just one of the thousands of reports authored by the world’s top scientists on the subject, including a study published just last month by Columbia University, University of Idaho and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies scientists that found climate change has intensified California’s drought. These aren’t just words. The consequences are real.

Please use your considerable intelligence to review this material. Climate change is much bigger than partisan politics.


Jerry Brown

The perfect way to explain what’s wrong with women in media…

Everywhere on the net that I go where any discussion of media takes place, people get upset whenever someone takes a critical look at the roles the women play in any one piece of media. But Caroline Siede has the perfect explanation in her most recent AV Club article titled, If you like Return of the Jedi, but hate the Ewoks, you understand feminist criticism:

Return Of The Jedi is great, but the Ewoks are so annoying.” That’s a pretty common refrain from Star Wars fans. In fact there are whole fan edits dedicated to removing the little fuzzy bears from the film’s climax; I can only assume they’re made by the most hardcore of Star Wars lovers. The idea that a movie can be good despite its weaker elements is one of the most basic tenets of film criticism. Yet when it comes to dissecting films from a feminist viewpoint, we seem to have trouble keeping that in mind.

When I tweeted about my frustration with the female characters in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (one human, one primate, both of whom contribute very little to the plot), a friend replied, “Sorry to hear it’s a bad movie.” But it isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it was one of my favorite action blockbusters of last summer. Yet my specific feminist frustrations were extrapolated into a larger condemnation of the film. No one assumes that critiquing the Ewoks means you dislike Star Wars. So why did my complaints imply I hated Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes?

This guy has figured out the holy grail of PC gaming

I’ve been dreaming (no foolin’) about this for two or more years now – having one computer running Linux with a Windows VM for gaming when there aren’t Linux ports. Less hardware overhead for me. But until now VMs haven’t been able to gain native use of the graphics card. This guy figured out how to do it and it’s great. I’m likely going to do this next time I do a CPU/Motherboard refresh.

GPU Passthrough – Or How To Play Any Game At Near Native Performance In A Virtual Machine

Be More Like Me: Don’t Be Afraid to Do Stuff Alone

Hey, when you like bands like The Protomen, Anamanaguchi, and Weird Al, it’s hard to find someone to go to a concert with you. I’d be missing out on lots of fun if I had to go with someone else.

From the article:

Everyone has different internal guidelines for solo outings, and these guidelines are often marked by a fair degree of irrationality. I’ve never been able to work up the nerve to see a movie alone, for example, and yet I’ve eaten plenty of meals in restaurants without a dining partner — despite the fact that it’s a much more visible activity than sitting in a dark theater.

Why would you think war was over?

After all, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia Afghanistan and will always be at war with Eastasia Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan is not ending, US government attorneys said in court documents unsealed Friday, undercutting statements President Barack Obama made last December and in his State of the Union address a few weeks later when he formally declared that “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

But Obama didn’t really mean that the war was over, the government now argues.

The MPAA members know damn well there are legit uses for bittorrent….

….but pretend there aren’t.

Main quote:

In some ways, this is so incredibly shortsighted. Here Sony is so committed to the idea that torrents can’t be shown to have any legal, non-infringing uses (even though there are plenty), that it won’t even allow its own staff to experiment with ways to use the new technology to their own advantage. But just the admission in the email alone shows that Sony’s top execs know damn well that there are legitimate, non-infringing, uses for BitTorrent, and they’re deliberately trying not to use them just to make BitTorrent look much worse than it is.

Sex is more of a continuum than binary

So, this paper in Nature reveals that sex is much more complex than just having XX or XY. I think an awesome followup would see if trans and/or gay/lesbian people had more of these chimeric conditions. Although, everything has potential for evil, I think this would be super helpful to parents of kids who were going to end up trans to educate themselves in order to be more supportive.

We need to be the masters of our computers

The most important paragraph in Corey Doctorow’s essay:

No, the worst part is that, like the lady who had to swallow the bird to catch the spider that she’d swallowed to catch the fly, any technical system that stops you from being the master of your computer must be accompanied by laws that criminalize information about its weaknesses. In the age of Google, it simply won’t do to have “uninstall HAL9000.exe” return a list of videos explaining how to jailbreak your gadgets, just as videos that explain how to jailbreak your iPhone today could technically be illegal; making and posting them could potentially put their producers (and the sites that host them) at risk of prosecution.

This amounts to a criminal sanction for telling people about vulnerabilities in their own computers. And because today your computer lives in your pocket and has a camera and a microphone and knows all the places you go; and because tomorrow that speeding car/computer probably won’t even sport a handbrake, let alone a steering wheel—the need to know about any mode that could be exploited by malicious hackers will only get more urgent. There can be no “lawful interception” capacity for a self-driving car, allowing police to order it to pull over, that wouldn’t also let a carjacker compromise your car and drive it to a convenient place to rob, rape, and/or kill you.

(emphasis mine)

Kill an African American?

No problem!

But kill an elk? You are going to get convicted, you monster!

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before convicting Sam Carter on all nine counts he faced, which also included forgery and tampering with evidence.

Carter shot “Big Boy” the bull elk with his buckshot-loaded shotgun as it grazed on fallen crabapples, and then called in a friend and fellow officer to help remove it as horrified neighbors watched Jan. 1, 2013.