Standing up to the Evil Empire
May 29th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Terrorist Pianos of Doom!. Toward the end of last month, a noteworthy incident occurred in the classical music life of Los Angeles:

Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman, who is widely admired for his virtuosic performances and who famously tours with his own custom-altered Steinway, created a furor at Disney Hall on Sunday night when he stopped his recital to announce that this would be his last American appearance -- in protest of the nation's military policies overseas.

In a low voice that could not be heard throughout the auditorium, Zimerman, universally considered among the world's finest pianists, made reference to Guantanamo Bay and U.S. military policies toward Poland.

"Get your hands off my country," he said.

Then he turned to the piano and played Szymanowski's "Variations on a Polish Folk Theme" with such passion and intensity that the stunned audience gave him multiple ovations.

Earlier, about 30 or 40 people in the audience had walked out after Zimerman's declaration, some shouting obscenities. "Yes," the pianist, known in Poland as "King Krystian the Glorious," answered, "some people, when they hear the word military, start marching."

[Once Upon a Time...]

The whole post is worth reading.

It’s amazing how much the boss…
May 29th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

It’s amaz­ing how much the boss being on vaca­tion does to improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. If only he’d stay that way…

Counterproductive password policies
May 24th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Cal­cu­lat­ing Pass­word Pol­i­cy Strength Vs. Crack­ing. sny­d­eq writes “InfoWorld’s Roger Grimes offers a spreadsheet-based cal­cu­la­tor in which you can key in your cur­rent pass­word pol­i­cy and see how your organization’s pass­words might hold up against the num­ber of guess­es an attack­er can make in a giv­en minute. The cal­cu­la­tor includes results for four dif­fer­ent pass­word entropy mod­els, and is based on length, char­ac­ter set, max­i­mum age, whether com­plex­i­ty is enabled, and the num­ber of guess­es per minute an attack­er can attempt. As an exam­ple, Grimes assumes an eight-character pass­word, with com­plex­i­ty enabled, a 94-symbol char­ac­ter set, and 90 days between pass­word changes. Such a pol­i­cy, typ­i­cal for many orga­ni­za­tions, would require attack­ers to make only 65 guess­es per minute to break — not at all hard to accom­plish, Grimes writes.”

Read more of this sto­ry at Slash­dot.


I have some expe­ri­ence with fool­ish pass­word poli­cies like that. They’re actu­al­ly even worse than this arti­cle sug­gests, because a pol­i­cy requir­ing hard to mem­o­rize pass­words that change reg­u­lar­ly mean that users gen­er­al­ly can’t mem­o­rize their pass­words, and as a result with either write them down next to their com­put­er or fol­low some pre­dictable pat­tern such as “password1!,” “password2!,” etc.

Good stories and networks don’t mix
May 21st, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Sarah Con­nor Chron­i­cles — Why It Died. brum­grunt writes “Sarah Con­nor was a non-populist, med­i­ta­tive, com­plex piece of tele­vi­sion on a smash-bang, show-me-the-ratings kind of net­work. The two were nev­er going to get on. Plus: how the Ter­mi­na­tor name proved more hin­drance than aid.”

Read more of this sto­ry at Slash­dot.


It was def­i­nite­ly one of those “too good for tele­vi­sion” shows. Too bad it wasn’t on a cable chan­nel, where good sto­ries can survive–for exam­ple, Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca made it all the way to the end of its run on the Sci Fi Chan­nel, which (despite the name) doesn’t actu­al­ly have much sci-fi on it.

Photographer pay
May 21st, 2009 by Ken Hagler

From a mail­ing list for music pho­tog­ra­phers:

What do pho­tog­ra­phers make?
*Salary data is from Salaries list­ed are for full time work­ers with 5–8 years of expe­ri­ence and include any bonus­es or prof­it shar­ing.

Free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er — $35,728
Pho­to­jour­nal­ist — $37,403
News pho­tog­ra­ph­er — $43,001
Fash­ion pho­tog­ra­ph­er — $48,710
Sports pho­tog­ra­ph­er — $44,686

And peo­ple ask me why I don’t want to be a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er…

PGP Whole Disk Encryption
May 17th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

After trying it for three weeks without problems, I bought the latest version of PGP Desktop Professional, which includes whole disk encryption. Both my MacBook Pro's internal hard drive and the external drive I use for Time Machine backups have gotten along with it just fine, even through the system update to 10.5.7. For the most part there's no noticeable impact on performance, but then my laptop doesn't do anything really disk intensive--all my photography work happens on a different computer which I will not be encrypting. There did seem to be a slowdown in Time Machine backups, but that's not an area where performance is really relevant. I would really prefer to use TrueCrypt, but as it currently can only do whole disk encryption on Windows (where I have been using it for some time), that wasn't an option.

The rest of the PGP Desktop package gets a mixed review. I had looked at PGP last summer and dismissed it as unacceptable because of the horribly designed proxy it relies on for encrypting email, but this time around I discovered that there is also an officially unsupported plugin available for Mail. The plugin works the same way as the GPGMail plugin, but with fewer features. This is not surprising, as they have the same author. Apparently some brainless product manager at PGP Corporation had decided to kill the plugin (presumably to force users into using their worthless proxy), and it was brought back by popular demand.

Since the last time I looked at PGP, it's lost the ability to communicate with public key servers other than the one actually run by PGP Corporation, which very few people use. According to a thread on the PGP support forum, the developers know about this bug and just don't care about fixing it. Well, nobody will ever accuse the PGP Corporation of having good customer service or QA! Fortunately the keyservers have web interfaces so the problem can be worked around as long as you're using the "unsupported" Mail plugin. Anyone foolish enough to use the proxy will be out of luck, though.

I ultimately decided to switch from GPG to PGP for my email needs, at least for the moment, because while both of them have huge problems on the Mac, PGP's refusal to work with keyservers that aren't owned by the PGP Corporation is less of a problem than the hideously unusable keychain management that GPG inflicts.

More police state surveillance
May 15th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

No War­rant Required in U.S. for GPS Track­ing.

At least, accord­ing to a U.S. Dis­trict Court rul­ing:

As the law cur­rent­ly stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track peo­ple with­out vio­lat­ing their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights — even if the dri­vers aren’t sus­pects.

Offi­cers do not need to get war­rants before­hand because GPS track­ing does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lund­sten wrote for the unan­i­mous three-judge pan­el based in Madi­son.

That means “police are seem­ing­ly free to secret­ly track anyone’s pub­lic move­ments with a GPS device,” he wrote.

The court wants the leg­is­la­ture to fix it:

How­ev­er, the Dis­trict 4 Court of Appeals said it was “more than a lit­tle trou­bled” by that con­clu­sion and asked Wis­con­sin law­mak­ers to reg­u­late GPS use to pro­tect against abuse by police and pri­vate indi­vid­u­als.

I think the odds of that hap­pen­ing are approx­i­mate­ly zero.

[Schneier on Secu­ri­ty]

I agree. Also note that this real­ly only applies to cops spy­ing on dri­vers who don’t have cell phones. If you’ve got a cell phone, it’s sim­pler and cheap­er for the cops to spy on you using the track­ing device you paid for and vol­un­teered to car­ry around rather than going to the trou­ble of bug­ging your car.

History continues to repeat itself
May 14th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Train­ing the Police State’s Next Gen­er­a­tion.

Remem­ber when the Boy Scouts were mere­ly about help­ing old ladies across the street, learn­ing how to tie a decent knot, and exclud­ing gay peo­ple?

Meet the post-9/11 Scouts.

The Explor­ers pro­gram, a coed­u­ca­tion­al affil­i­ate of the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca that began 60 years ago, is train­ing thou­sands of young peo­ple in skills used to con­front ter­ror­ism, ille­gal immi­gra­tion and esca­lat­ing bor­der vio­lence — an intense ratch­et­ing up of one of the group’s long­time mis­sions to pre­pare youths for more tra­di­tion­al jobs as police offi­cers and fire­fight­ers.

This is about being a true-blooded Amer­i­can guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowen­thal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Impe­r­i­al Coun­ty, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explor­ers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the hon­or and brav­ery of the Boy Scouts.”

The train­ing, which lead­ers say is not intend­ed to be applied out­side the sim­u­lat­ed Explor­er set­ting, can involve chas­ing down ille­gal bor­der crossers as well as more dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions that include fac­ing down ter­ror­ists and tak­ing out “active shoot­ers,” like those who bring gun­fire and death to col­lege cam­pus­es. In a sim­u­la­tion here of a raid on a mar­i­jua­na field, sev­er­al Explor­ers were instruct­ed on how to qui­et an obstreper­ous look­out.

Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Bor­der Patrol agent explained. “I guar­an­tee that he’ll shut up.” 

This is real­ly despi­ca­ble stuff.

[The Agi­ta­tor]

It’s not at all sur­pris­ing, though. It’s nat­ur­al for any oppres­sive police state to cre­ate its own ana­log to the Hitler Youth and Young Pio­neers.

@sethdill I just got the same …
May 12th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

@sethdill I just got the same thing.

Quote of the Day
May 9th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Argu­ing with anony­mous strangers on the Inter­net is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be–or to be indis­tin­guish­able from–self-righteous sixteen-year-olds pos­sess­ing infi­nite amounts of free time.

Neal Stephen­son, “Crypto­nom­i­con”

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