Ramblings & ephemera

Steve Jobs, genius

From Stephen Fry’s “Steve Jobs” (The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: 6 October 2011): Henry Ford didn’t invent the motor car, Rockefeller didn’t discover how to crack crude oil into petrol, Disney didn’t invent animation, the Macdonald brothers didn’t invent the hamburger, Martin Luther King didn’t invent oratory, neither Jane Austen, Tolstoy nor Flaubert invented […]

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

Eavesdropping with your cell phone

From David S. Bennahum’s “Hope You Like Jamming, Too” (Slate): …innovative industrial spies, who have several neat new tricks. These days, a boardroom Mata Hari can purchase a specially designed cell phone that will answer incoming calls while appearing to be switched off. In a business meeting, she could casually leave her phone on the […]

How an email account without passwords can be good for security

From Robert X. Cringely’s “Stream On“: Mailinator is ad hoc e-mail for those times when just maybe you don’t want to use your regular e-mail address. Say you are snitching on the boss, buying inflatable people, or want 32 different PayPal accounts. Just tell someone—anyone—that your e-mail address is fatman@mailinator.com or skinnykid@mailinator.com, or clueless@mailinator.com or […]

Better security = reduced efficiency

From Robert X. Cringely’s “Stream On“: Yet nearly everything we do to combat crime or enhance safety comes at the expense of reduced efficiency. So we build airports to make possible efficient air transportation, then set up metal detectors to slow down the flow of passengers. We build highways to make car travel faster, then […]

American Express’ security policies made things more insecure

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 August 2003: When I called to activate an American Express credit card I had received in the mail, the automated system told me that I would have to associate a PIN with it. The system told me that other users liked the idea of using their mother’s birthday as […]

Getting past security on planes

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 August 2003: It’s actually easy to fly on someone else’s ticket. Here’s how: First, have an upstanding citizen buy an e-ticket. (This also works if you steal someone’s identity or credit card.) Second, on the morning of the flight print the boarding pass at home. (Most airlines now offer […]

Laundering a car’s VIN

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 October 2003: Precision stripping: criminal steals car, chop shop strips car completely down to chassis, chassis dumped on street, cops tow chassis away, chassis sold at auction, criminal buys chassis, chop shop reattaches parts. Result: legitimate car that can be legally sold used. The VIN has been ‘laundered’.

What seems obvious in security often is not

From Russell Nelson’s comment to Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 November 2003: > A New York detective was once asked whether pickpockets in > Manhattan dressed in suits and ties to facilitate their crimes > subsequent escape. He responded by saying that in twenty years > he had never arrested even one pickpocket in a […]

A nanny’s man-in-the-middle attack

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 April 2004: Here’s a story of a woman who posts an ad requesting a nanny. When a potential nanny responds, she asks for references for a background check. Then she places another ad, using the reference material as a fake identity. She gets a job with the good references—they’re […]

Security decisions are often made for non-security reasons

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 July 2004: There was a single guard watching the X-ray machine’s monitor, and a line of people putting their bags onto the machine. The people themselves weren’t searched at all. Even worse, no guard was watching the people. So when I walked with everyone else in line and just […]

The real digital divide: knowing how to use what you have & not knowing

From Howard Rheingold’s interview in “Howard Rheingold’s Latest Connection” (Business Week: 11 August 2004): Here’s where Wikipedia fits in. It used to be if you were a kid in a village in India or a village in northern Canada in the winter, maybe you could get to a place where they have a few books […]

How free riders are good for open source

From Howard Rheingold’s interview in “Howard Rheingold’s Latest Connection” (Business Week: 11 August 2004): Then there’s open source [software]. Steve Weber, a political economist at UC Berkeley, sees open source as an economic means of production that turns the free-rider problem to its advantage. All the people who use the resource but don’t contribute to […]

How changes in glass changed working conditions

From Nicholas Carr’s “(re)framed” (Rough Type: 3 June 2011): I’m reminded of an interesting passage in the book Glass: A World History: As we have seen, one of the rapid developments in glass technology was the making of panes of window glass, plain and coloured, which was particularly noticeable in the northern half of Europe […]

Speaking at SLUUG: Amazing, Stupendous, Mind-Blowing Apps for iPad2

Jans Carton & I are delivering a talk at the St. Louis UNIX Users Group at 6:30 pm this Wednesday, 8 June 2011, titled “Amazing, Stupendous, Mind-Blowing Apps for iPad2”. We’ll be demoing iPad apps live for everyone. If you want to find out more about the iPad, or discover some awesome new iPad apps, […]

The Pareto Principle & Temperament Dimensions

From David Brooks’ “More Tools For Thinking” (The New York Times: 29 March 2011): Clay Shirkey nominates the Pareto Principle. We have the idea in our heads that most distributions fall along a bell curve (most people are in the middle). But this is not how the world is organized in sphere after sphere. The […]

Clay Shirky on the changes to publishing & media

From Parul Sehgal’s “Here Comes Clay Shirky” (Publisher’s Weekly: 21 June 2010): PW: In April of this year, Wired‘s Kevin Kelly turned a Shirky quote—“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”—into “the Shirky Principle,” in deference to the simple, yet powerful observation. … Kelly explained, “The Shirky Principle declares […]

These are their brilliant plans to save magazines?

From Jeremy W. Peters’ “In Magazine World, a New Crop of Chiefs” (The New York Times: 28 November 2010): “This is the changing of the guard from an older school to a newer school,” said Justin B. Smith, president of the Atlantic Media Company. The changes, he added, were part of an inevitable evolution in […]

David Pogue’s insights about tech over time

From David Pogue’s “The Lessons of 10 Years of Talking Tech” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): As tech decades go, this one has been a jaw-dropper. Since my first column in 2000, the tech world has not so much blossomed as exploded. Think of all the commonplace tech that didn’t even exist 10 […]

Hanoi’s last blacksmith

From Seth Mydans’s “A Lone Blacksmith, Where Hammers Rang” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): HANOI, Vietnam — He is the last blacksmith on Blacksmith Street, dark with soot, his arms dappled with burns, sweating and hammering at his little roadside forge as a new world courses past him. The son and grandson of […]