Category Archives: technology

Welcome to your new police state

I can’t tell you what we are doing because I signed a non-disclosure agreement

The issue led to a public dispute three weeks ago in Silicon Valley, where a sheriff asked county officials to spend $502,000 on the technology. The Santa Clara County sheriff, Laurie Smith, said the technology allowed for locating cellphones — belonging to, say, terrorists or a missing person. But when asked for details, she offered no technical specifications and acknowledged she had not seen a product demonstration.
Buying the technology, she said, required the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.
“So, just to be clear,” Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, “we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money,” he continued, but “you can’t tell us more about it.”
The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.
The technology can also capture texts, calls, emails and other data, and prosecutors have received court approval to use it for such purposes.
Cell site simulators are catching on while law enforcement officials are adding other digital tools, like video cameras, license-plate readers, drones, programs that scan billions of phone records and gunshot detection sensors. Some of those tools have invited resistance from municipalities and legislators on privacy grounds.
The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.

Wired Magazine named Harris Corporation the number 2 most dangerous thing on the internet right now.

The Harris Corporation and the U.S. Marshals Service are tied for going above and beyond to conceal information from the public, courts and defendants about law enforcement’s use of so-called stingray technology. Harris is the leading maker of stingrays for law enforcement, which simulate a cell tower to trick mobile phones and other devices into connecting to them and revealing their location. Federal and local law enforcement agencies around the county have been using the devices for years—in some cases bypassing courts altogether to use them without a warrant or deceiving judges about what they’re using to collect the location information. Why? They say it’s because Harris’s contract includes an NDA that prohibits customers from telling anyone, including judges, about their use of the technology. It’s hard to know who’s really initiating the secrecy, though—Harris, because it wants to protect its proprietary secrets from competitors, or law enforcement agencies, because they’re worried suspects will find ways to counteract the devices. The secrecy reached an extreme level this year when agents with the U.S. Marshals Service in Florida swooped in to seize public records about the use of stingrays to keep them out of the hands of the ACLU.

Get DxO Optics Pro 8 Free until January 31, 2015

Between now and January 31st of 2015, those interested in switching up your post-processing workflow and experimenting with software outside of the Adobe ecosystem have a great incentive to do so: DxO has partnered with Digital Photographer to offer free, no strings attached licenses of DxO Optics Pro 8 to anybody who wants one.

Of course, DxO Optics Pro is currently well into Version 9, but if you’ve never played around with the software and you’re not keen on downloading a 31-day free trial of 9, this is a great way to add a piece of software to your workflow free of charge.

Dxogiveaway

Blog hacked

My blog was hacked today.  Luckily I back up my database recently and was able to regain access to the site through Wendy’s account on the site.

I actually regularly back up my database so I was fortunate that I didn’t lose anything.  They never touched my images (as far as I can tell) which means that that not a lot of damage was done.

Some plugins aren’t working correctly after the database backup but I will uninstall and reinstall that.  I also found that it published some drafts, including the one that talked about my birthday.  It was an old draft that I forgot about.  So don’t worry, my birthday isn’t until March.

I self-host WordPress.  I am not fanatical about security but I don’t think I had anything unsafe.  I think if anything, they just got my username and password.  While my mission critical stuff was changed and upgraded a few years ago, I am sad to say that my WordPress password was pretty simple.  It wasn’t “password” but wasn’t fantastic.  I also realized that my WordPress.com password was the same username and password so I changed that as well.

So basically you take one jerk, add in someone lazy with a password and you get your blog hacked.

How the mighty are falling

Declining sales on phones lead Samsung to smart appliances

The controlling Lee family is trying to reinvent Samsung as a purveyor of Internet-connected appliances to grab share of a market that may be worth $7.1-trillion (U.S.) by 2020. Samsung wants to generate revenue from Tizen applications and services just as Apple Inc. and Google do from their operating systems, and the Suwon, South Korea-based company is emphasizing TVs and consumer electronics after falling a year behind schedule on a Tizen-based phone.

“In smartphones, there’s no chance that Samsung’s Tizen can edge out the two dominant operating systems,” said Claire Kim, a Seoul-based analyst at Daishin Securities Co. “But in TVs, Samsung may have a chance.”

Samsung’s rise to No. 1 in global phone sales depended on Google’s Android. Nearly all of the 243 million smartphones Samsung shipped through Sept. 30 ran the software, which Google typically gives away in return for mobile advertising revenue and a share of app sales.

Samsung faces the strongest challenge to its phone supremacy after posting the smallest quarterly earnings in more than two years. Operating profit at the mobile-phone unit, the company’s biggest cash generator, slumped 74 per cent in the September quarter and sales fell about 33 per cent.

I own an Apple TV and I just can’t get excited about paying extra for a smart TV when I can plug one of those or a Google Chomecast (or Amazon Kindle, Roku….) for under $100 (or under $40 for the Google Chromecast) into the TV and have a smart TV.

The smart appliance market may become huge but I can’t see the smart TV one being that big of deal at all, not when I can get my apps on my tablet and stream to my television.