Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"The Internet of Things" - One of the worst Ideas possible

In the wake of a couple of hackers taking down a Jeep Cherokee, we should really reconsider the whole "internet of things" idea. This isn't to say that it's ever not been a bad idea, just that more and more evidence piles up against the idea of networking everything.

In order for the "internet of things" to not be a major security risk, security holes need to be minimal and quickly patched. Instead, security is often an afterthought, or not even a consideration, and, in combination with the interconnection of important "things" with much less important (but considerably more networked) "things" allows for "hackers" to perform significantly malicious acts, and reduces privacy to a pittance.

Steering, braking, transmission, fridges, house lighting/electricity, etc. So many things that have no good reason for being connected to the internet are networked to kingdom come. The only way to guarantee that no one can hack an important system/equipment is to have an "air gap". That is to say, there is no direct connection between the important equipment and any form of transmitter/receiver. The transmission on the aforementioned Jeep Cherokee would be a lot harder to hack if it wasn't connected to the vehicle's built in wifi.

If it isn't a computer, and it doesn't need to be connected to the internet, disconnect it, if at all possible.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Korora Linux

I'm not a Linux fanboy. In fact, I'm pretty much OS indifferent - so long as the operating system isn't full of security holes (for one reason or another) and isn't a mobile device OS ported to real computers, especially if the OS wants you to use an app store. I like to play computer games, but I can live without computer games. I actually kind of like MS Office, but I'm just fine with LibreOffice.
The problem comes for the people who aren't all that great with computers. In general, most alternatives to Windows and OS X require at least a small amount of computer knowledge to really use.
Of the exceptions, the most common is Ubuntu. I'm really not a fan of Ubuntu (this has not always been the case), although I'll take it over Windows 8 any day. As far as I'm concerned, Ubuntu skims dangerously close to adware, and that seriously reduces its attractiveness. I'm also not terribly fond of its interface (that is, however, a matter of taste). There are other options out there such as ReactOS, which isn't past alpha, and thus not a good choice for "not computer people" and Linux Mint, based off of Ubuntu, which I have no opinion of, having never used it. Then there's Korora Linux. It's based off of Fedora, and unlike Fedora, comes with a lot of packages already installed to make things easy for "not computer people" and the lazy. I personally prefer the KDE desktop, but, for those who prefer a different desktop environment, its also available in GNOME, XFCE, Cinnamon, and Mate. If you're not certain what you want, you can (as with other Linux distros) create a "live cd" or "live USB drive" that lets you "test drive" the OS (and Desktop environment) before installing it.
I highly recommend Korora for the lazy and "not computer people" who are tired of Microsoft.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gun Control

Apparently various gun control proponents feel that the time is ripe to push for gun control - albeit for different reasons.

First up is Ms. Clinton. She is apparently encouraged by the recent church massacre. She's going to be pushing it as part of her campaign - along with the idea that she could break the usual gridlock that sets in (with good reason) whenever gun control comes up in Congress.
It is important to note that, even after Newtown, the passage of gun control laws at the Federal level stalled out, and at the state level, outside of gun control bastions like New York and California, new gun control laws were not only bitterly opposed, but resulted in recall elections and other assorted backlash. It is unlikely that a new tragedy will result in the  implementation of greater infringement.

One group thinks that, with the victory of gay marriage, they can apply the same tactics used to win the middle ground in the gay marriage argument. Of the two groups, they are the more dangerous. They believe that, with the right wording they can beget the spread of universal background checks. After all, Initiative 594 managed to succeed in Washington. Never mind that such measures are useless, unenforceable, and fail at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
The old paradigm, says Gross, who has a background in advertising, was “keeping certain guns away from all people.” (Assault rifles, for example.) The new one, which focuses on background checks, is about “keeping all guns away from certain people.” (People with criminal records, domestic abusers, the mentally ill.) Every American, no matter how they feel about the Second Amendment, can get behind that. “It’s that notion of common values, common goals: We all want to be safer."
Its a nice sentiment. Too bad that convicted felons still manage to get a hold of guns. Too bad that it gets easier and easier to just go ahead and build your own guns with every advance in personal manufacturing.
Universal background checks are not the answer. They are a null effect upon crime and criminals. Straw purchases are already illegal. Making it illegal for private citizens to transfer arms between one another without getting a background check isn't going to prevent them. Moreover, with our porous southern border, do you really think that drugs are the only thing coming across?
Universal background checks, whether intentionally or not (I'm willing to accept that most gun control advocates are well intentioned fools, rather than malicious statists), are the precursor to gun registration, which is itself (again, whether intentionally or not) the precursor to gun confiscation.
There is no such thing as desirable gun control. No such thing as "common sense" gun laws. All gun laws limit freedom.
They might be able to sway the independents enough to see their laws enacted. They might even be able to create a gun control utopia in the US, if firearms ownership has really declined as they think is has (me, I'm pretty doubtful - when a complete stranger calls you on the phone and asks if you have something valuable in your house, do you answer honestly? This is called "reporting bias"). Just remember. Gun owners may be a minority, but we're a significant one. And you can only restrict someone's rights so far before they snap.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day

On this day in 1776 the Continental Congress published the Declaration of Independence for all the world to see.
Go out and enjoy your life and liberty, and pursue that happiness. Have fun at the barbeque. Blow stuff up. Enjoy fireworks. Today is the most important non-religious holiday in the US.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Someone's not a Fan of the NRA

The gentleman who wrote this article isn't a fan of the NRA. However, his credibility is tied up in one paragraph:
If I hate the NRA so much, why did I buy a gun at 37? As a meat eater with no particular desire to become a vegetarian, I wanted to confront the fact of killing animals for food. Once I took up hunting, I discovered that I relished the time I spent off the grid. Some might scratch this itch with a weekend camping trip. I chose to trudge into the woods before dawn, often in freezing temperatures, to keep a silent vigil in the trees as the morning light begins to filter through the branches. I rarely see a deer. Such a contemplative, frequently fruitless endeavor isn’t for everyone, but it suits me.
That's right. His opinion is worth listening to because he's a hunter. That's the only piece of credibility that he brings to the table. Well, that and the fact of the NRA's admittedly annoying robocalls.

One of his main points is that the NRA, with only 5 million members, doesn't represent the majority of gun owners. He's technically right about that, but he draws the wrong conclusion. While there are a number of Fudds like the article's author running around with only hunting rifles and not caring about any of that pesky gun control, large numbers of people who hold views somewhat in line with the NRA don't donate for whatever reason, and there's also a significant number of gun owners who hold views far beyond those of the NRA. Those gun owners (such as myself) will, if they have the spare cash, be members of other gun rights organizations. I'm personally a member of Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights, both of which are considerably more hardline than the NRA. Now, I'm also a member of the NRA, but, in light of past performance, the NRA has proven willing to either accept limitations upon the right to keep and bear arms (in fact, the NRA supported the National Firearms Act of 34), I donate to the GOA and NAGR to keep the NRA honest.

He uses the usual guilt trip tactics - providing examples of gun use by criminal or deranged individuals, even going so far as to call handgun supporters "handgun apologists".
Last Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill, N.C., 15 miles from my home in Durham, three young Americans of Middle Eastern descent were murdered by a home invader. The killer was their neighbor, notorious and feared around the apartment complex for flashing his perfectly legal concealed handgun. Without his weapon, he would have been an angry but perhaps harmless, crank. With it, he snuffed out three lives in a matter of seconds. The deaths affected our community profoundly — everyone seemed to know someone who knew the victims.
Handgun apologists see nothing wrong with this killer possessing both a gun and a carry permit, because he had no prior record. In the moral reasoning that NRA has honed to soundbite perfection, it was his choice to commit a crime. The gun didn’t shoot itself.
There's a lot of things wrong with this excerpt. Let's start with the idea that "without his weapon, he would have been an angry but perhaps harmless, crank". Has he ever heard of mass stabbings? The killer wouldn't have needed a gun. For three men, all you really need is a big knife and the element of surprise (and depending upon the victims, not even that). Next, the idea that those of us who support gun rights are "handgun apologists". That seems to imply that handguns are the cause of the crime, rather than the tool used to commit it. Are we to regulate just what sort of cars people can drive because of drunk drivers?

While we North Carolinians reel from the killing of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, our legislators continue to chip away at gun laws, an anti-business, anti-faith agenda that has forced shopkeepers, restaurateurs, barkeeps, schoolmasters and clergy to post “no-gun” signs on their doors.
I'm not sure how it's anti-business or anti-faith to make someone post a "no-guns" sign on their door if they don't want guns in their establishment. The only problem I have with it is that, with such a sign, you're announcing to the world that your shop is a safe place to rob/hold a mass shooting in. Or has it slipped your notice that every single successful mass shooting happened in a no gun zone or another place where the shooter could be reasonably confident that no one had a gun?

I agree with the NRA on one point: Tightening controls on gun ownership will not eliminate gun violence. And it may not do much to address the psychopathology of young men who commit mass murder. Timothy McVeigh and the Tsarnaev brothers committed their crimes with bombs, while Adam Lanza, with no criminal record, inexplicably stole his mother’s guns, murdered her, and headed off to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
 At least he's honest enough to admit that gun control won't stop gun crime. Too bad he isn't honest enough to admit that more gun control doesn't mean less crime, and in fact, often results in more violent crime.
There are some signs that this could occur. Thanks to the decline in hunting and in violent crime, the percentage of homes with guns has been waning steadily since the 1970s. In 2014, the figure was reported to be 31 percent. Although there are believed to be about 300 million guns in the United States, they seem to be concentrated in fewer, undoubtedly more fervent hands: aging hands, perhaps. Millennials and guns? Not so much.
I don't know about you, but when someone calls me and asks me if I have guns, I tell them no as a matter of principle. How am I to know that the caller is legitimate and not a criminal checking to see if I own anything of value? While there are certainly a few demographic reasons for the decline in homes with guns, I'm certain that at least part of the reason for the "decline" in gun ownership is reporting bias.

Gun control is a gimmick. A skilled individual can create a professional quality modern firearm with a few commonly available tools. Less skilled individuals can create anything from serviceable (but ugly) firearms to plastic deathtraps. It is literally harder to make meth than it is to make a gun. Moreover, guns aren't even the problem. Criminals - predators in human flesh - are the problem. If you were to somehow remove guns from the situation, all you'd be doing is removing the one chance that physically weaker individuals have against stronger attackers, because criminals don't care if they kill you with a gun or a lead pipe - and in a society where the primary weapon is a lead pipe, a 200 lb male is going to wipe the floor with a 120 lb female, unless the lady has some serious martial arts skill, and possibly not even then.

God made man. Samuel Colt made him equal. Gun control proponents want to remove that equality.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

When in Doubt, blame the US

Putin is currently accusing the US of helping the Chechen terrorists. I think he's just sore because no matter how hard he tries to disarm the Chechens, the black market and shadetree gunsmiths conspire to keep them armed.
He also claims that "The west is only friendly with Russia when it is on its knees." If true, it might have something to do with such places as Crimea and Georgia, which showed that a Russia that isn't on it's knees makes a really bad neighbor.
Putin defended the annexation of Crimea as a response to the will of the people, which restored "historic justice."
If Putin gets to defend the annexation of Crimea as "historic justice", then we should just resurrect Manifest Destiny and reconquer Mexico. I mean, if that's all the justification that you need to forcibly annex large chunks of land, then we need to get back into the conquering business and really build an American Empire.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Any weapon is better than no weapon at all.

While swords aren't exactly my home defense weapon of choice, they can be very effective in a pinch. I'd rather have a gun, but there's no denying that the distances in homes are rather short, allowing you, or the home invaders to get close - at which point a sword, or even a large knife (especially one designed with fighting in mind) can put a serious hurt on anyone, no matter age or size.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Eternal Patrol

During WWII a great deal of submarines left on the eternal patrol, never to return to port. Most of these submarines were lost with all hands. After the war, submarine losses ended, at least until 10 April 1963, when the USS Thresher went down and never came up. To this day, the Thresher is the last US submarine to have sunk - while major mishaps have happened on other submarines, resulting in decommissioning (notably the USS Bonefish), none of them sank. Let us all lift one in honor of all submarines that never came back to port, those brave souls on the eternal patrol.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The First Amendment and the Anarchist Cookbook

This is a good one. Senator Feinstein has decided that bomb making manuals such as the Anarchist Cookbook and Al Qaeda's Inspire magazine do not deserve to be protected under the First Amendment.
There are a number of issues with her stance, starting with the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
It doesn't say anything in there about getting to choose what counts as protected speech. Otherwise politicians would be banning all sorts of dangerous speech, such as pretty much everything that Dr. Martin Luther King said. That isn't a can of worms that anyone in their right mind wants to open.

The next problem is the technical issues with removing it from the internet. The Anarchist Cookbook (and it's cousin the Anarchist's Cookbook) are both available from hundreds of sources on the internet, ranging from Amazon to The Pirate Bay and its contemporaries. There are a lot of downloaded copies of the book, and Senator Feinstein doesn't seem to realize just how hard it is to prevent people from sharing their copies with other people. Heck, if two parties are using steganography, the Feds might not even realize that someone's sharing the file.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Something to Check Out

Amidst the Noise, an NRA News Commentator, is doing a documentary on the media misrepresentation of violent crime rates. Check it out. I've already backed it.