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Jeb! The Donald! Notes from the Clown Car

Notes from the Republican clown car… or as they like to think of it, presidential campaign.

Jeb Bush has been running for the office ever since he noticed that his brother W (for “Worst-ever”) did not actually get indicted for treason.  But he’s afraid that people might actually remember that brother of his who lied us into a war in Iraq because twenty Saudis trained in Afghanistan to crash four planes into the sides of buildings in the US.  And who crashed the economy into the side of a mountain in order to make his billionaire buddies billioner.

So his campaign’s official logo conveniently omits something:

That’s right – no last name.  Seems about right.  If my name were Bush I would probably just move to the Caymans so I could be closer to my bribes hard-earned wealth.

Meanwhile, back at Clown Central, the clowniest clown who ever clowned has agreed to a ride in the Clown Car

So now the Party of Nope is ever more solidly the Party of Dope.  Let’s hope he gets sued by Neil Young soon for illegally using “Rockin’ in the Free World” as his campaign music.  Is it possible there’s another song that more completely indicts the sliminess of the 1980s selfish-conservertarian swamp that spawned The Donald?
 ‘nother story

Divorce and Rolling Coal

So there’s this Australian couple who have let it be known that if Australia becomes a civilized place where any two people regardless of gender can get married, they will get a divorce.  That’s right – if civil marriage in Oz can’t conform to their religious ideas then they want no part of it.

If this brings to mind images of toddlers throwing temper tantrums and holding their breath until they turn blue, I think you are being unfair.  To toddlers.

I love that they open their position statement with, “As Christians…”  That always reminds me of Bill Maher’s famous take: they think we’re hearing that they have the moral high ground, but what we’re really hearing is that they have a neurological disorder.

For some reason it also reminded me of the “Rolling Coal” idiots in the heartland of the USA.  You may have seen these guys riding around in hideously oversized diesel trucks that have had their engines specially damaged tuned to produce inky black exhaust.

This is (are you sitting down?) their way of protesting against the existence of hybrids and electric vehicles.  Protesting against other drivers trying not to destroy the environment.

If these assorted morons really wish to damage themselves because the human race is making social progress, I wish they would try harder not to harm others in the process.  And I also wish they would be more efficient about it.

Do you own your car?

Or does GM?  I’m not referring here to leasing vs. buying.  I am referring to the fact that GM has recently declared that only mechanics they license are allowed to work on “your” car.  And if you take it to another mechanic, or use less-expensive after-market parts, or connect the car’s diagnostic port to a home-brew or third-party device, the issue is not merely the possibility of voiding the warranty.  The issue is, GM can more or less unilaterally declare you to be in violation of the Anti-Circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  You can be charged with a crime at the Federal level.

Here is where the evils of DRM (that I started to write about here) intersect with the entertainment industry lobbyists’ power to get stuff enacted into laws, and affect how we can use technology we think we own.  These laws have effects on our lives that are not at all well-understood, not even by the content-industry monopolists who paid to have them enacted.

Do farmers own their tractors?  According to comments filed by John Deere with the Copyright Office, they do not.  They are not allowed to modify any aspect of “their” tractor that is mediated by software, which is pretty much anything useful.  This article in Wired brings up a case of a farmer — a neighbor of the author — who cannot get his transplanter fixed because he is not given access to the correct diagnostic software.  And so he has a six-figure barn ornament.

In their comments in support of this policy, Deere points out that if they were allowed to tinker with the tractors’ software, farmers might change the engine tuning to violate the EPA pollution regulations.  Well, OK, but then they would owe the EPA a fine, not John Deere.  They might even use the in-cab entertainment system to pirate music.  (Roll that around in your brain for a minute.) Yes, that’s why the farmer spends half a million bucks on a harvester — to evade paying $9.99 for a Taylor Swift CD.


We Are Secure Website Developers

We website developers put up with a lot from those security folks.  We’re constantly hearing them nag us to do boring things like scrub inputs to prevent SQL injection flaws.  Enforce up-to-date encryption standards.  Quit putting auth tokens into URLs.  All of these things would make our web applications more genuinely secure.  None of them, however, is visible to the user as evidence that we Take Security Very Seriously™.   What shall we do?

Well, nothing says “Security!” to our users who know nothing about security like passwords.  Long, inconvenient, hard-to-remember passwords.  Let’s make our password authentication as difficult as possible!  Then they will know that we Take Security Very Seriously™!

We’ll require a diverse character set.  Their passwords will have to have two capital letters, three lowercase letters, two numerals and a special character.  Donald Duck, perhaps?  Brad wanted it also to have to include the tears of a virgin, but HR sent us a really nasty email about the test we were going to implement for that.  

We’ll not allow passwords shorter than 8 characters, but also no longer than 14 — the DBAs are worried about the space it will require for that.  Why aren’t we hashing the passwords?  Well, yes, that would make the storage a non-issue, since all we’d ever store for each password is a constant-length hash.  But then how will we be able to send users those friendly reminder emails when they forget their passwords, with the password in clear text?

Of course, they won’t be able to use that clear text password to log in, because we have not yet finished demonstrating that we Take Security Very Seriously™!  See, now that we’ve made the passwords inhumane, we’re going to fix the front end to be sure that the ONLY way they can enter those inhumane passwords is to type them, one agonizing character at a time.  Never mind the users who want to use really random passwords, so they get password managers that load the clipboard or fill in passwords for them.  That black magic seems like a hacking tool to us, we won’t allow it.  No sir, only human fingers on a keyboard will be permitted here!

After all, we Take Security Very Seriously™.

Biometrics Are NOT Passwords, Dammit!

Today in Stupid Extensions of Biometric Authentication: this item from Sophos.  Brainprints will apparently be the new fingerprints.

Here is what the press (and from the looks of it, half the security industry) seems unable or unwilling to get: you cannot change your biometrics.  You cannot ever change your fingerprints.  Nor can you ever change your iris, your retina, your “brainprint,” or any of the other too-clever-by-half schemes researchers may yet dream up for biometric authentication.

In fact, the whole idea of two-factor authentication has traditionally been based on “Something you know, something you have, something you are… pick two.”  We need to drop the last, and go with “Something you know and something you have” – period.

Fingerprints are already easier to steal than a password ever was.  Digital photography is probably good enough by now that iris patterns are equally easy, and retinal scans from afar cannot be that far behind.  What was that twinkle?  Oops, too late.  Once the “brainprint” technology is usable, its targets will be equally pilferable.

Just because it looked cool in 1970’s SciFi does not mean it’s truly going to be valuable in this century.

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