Category Archives: Technology

Will Microsoft’s New CEO Kill Surface?

Aesthetics, Business, Internet, Technology, The Zeitgeist

Forbes’s Gene Marks contends that Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s New CEO—whom Marks thinks is way cool because, wait for this, Nadella is a “decade younger than his predecessor and looks young for his age”—has effectively killed the Microsoft Surface.

Let me unpack Marks’ “logic”:

Even though The Surface is “a powerful little laptop, lightweight with a Windows 8 touchscreen and a long battery life”; and though this product is “both tablet and laptop and integrates tightly with other Microsoft applications”—Cool-Because-He’s-Young Nadella is to be hailed as brilliant too for sabotaging the future of a magnificent product. It is alleged that Nadella wishes to end Microsoft’s foray into hardware (Surface), and take the company back to the business of software.

“A Windows First policy,” argues Marks, “was the reason behind products like the Surface.”

If, as I understood this terribly hip article, The Surface is more than the software it runs—why reduce the best Tablet in the business to its bits? What about the “Big Idea”?

Not being a techie, I have no idea if Forbes’s Gene Marks is being plain silly, or if silly is the new norm in the media’s tech coverage. I suspect the two are not mutually exclusive. (“A silly society is a youth-obsessed society.” Youth-obsessed U.S is silly.)

In its hipness, the Forbes article reminds me of that grating, pretentious Cisco ad, in which a female with a deceptively soft voice waffles about the Internet of All Things (WTF?!).

But I guess I’m still from the Book Age. Behold a throwback: a wall-to-wall library, or half of it, as I could not get the entire thing in the frame. Sean made this solid maple thing to my mid-century American, Heywood-Wakefield design specs (more):

Bookcase I


like tweet google+ recommend Print Friendlyprint

UPDATED: Putting Lipstick On The Pigs At NSA*

Constitution, Democrats, Homeland Security, Propaganda, Republicans, Technology, Terrorism

We’re doing the right thing; we’re not doing anything illegal,” said Four-Star General Keith Alexander to Fox News’ Bret Baier. An otherwise good reporter, Baier has been asking some poignant questions of the very clever, dissembling, outgoing director of the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional, naturally illicit and all-round reprehensible spying programs. However, Baier, another bright lad, seems to be merely going through the motion; making sure he does journalistic due diligence without any forceful follow-up. A less than obligatory follow-up would be: “I know that what you do is probably ‘legal,’ but is it ‘moral’?”

The occasion of the interview? Obama’s likely bogus “calls for an end to NSA’s bulk phone data collection.”

“What would you do to Edward Snowden if you were alone in a room with him” was more revealing of Baier’s sympathies. Alexander vaporized about the assorted entrapment operations to which hoovering up trillions of messages have led. (More about “The Dynamics of Entrapment.”)

BAIER: Former President Jimmy Carter saying he writes letters instead of sending e-mails because he’s worried that you’re listen — you’re reading his e-mails.

ALEXANDER: Well, we’re not. So he can now go back to writing e-mails. The reality is, we don’t do that. And if we did, it would be illegal and we’d be found, uh, I think accoun — held accountable and responsible. Look at all the folks that have looked at what we’re doing, from the president’s review group to Congress to the courts to the DNI, DOD, Justice. Everybody reviews what we do to see if anybody is doing anything illegal like you suggest. No one has found anything, zero, except for in 12 cases where people did that and we had already reported those.

* With apologies to pretty pigs.

UPDATE (3/26): The great Glenn Greenwald seems surprised that, much like Republicans, Democrats are opportunistic, lying, bottom-feeders. He notes that “what rational people do, by definition, is” this:

if a political official takes a position you agree with, then you support him, but when he does a 180-degree reversal and takes the exact position that you’ve been disagreeing with, then you oppose him. That’s just basic. Thus, those of us who originally defended Obama’s decision to release the photos turned into critics once he took the opposite position – the one we disagreed with all along – and announced that he would try to suppress the photos.
But that’s not what large numbers of Democrats did. Many of them first sided with Obama when his administration originally announced he’d release the photos. But then, with equal vigor, they also sided with Obama when – a mere two weeks later – he took the exact opposition position, the very anti-transparency view these Democrats had been attacking all along when voiced by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney.
At least for me, back then, that was astonishing to watch. It’s one thing to strongly suspect that people are simply adopting whatever views their party’s leader takes. But this was like the perfect laboratory experiment to prove that: Obama literally took exact opposition positions in a heated debate within a three week period and many Democrats defended him when he was on one side of the debate and then again when he switched to the other side.

“The Leader is right when he does X, and he’s equally right when he does Not X. That’s the defining attribute of the mindset of a partisan hack, an authoritarian, and the standard MSNBC host. …”

MORE.


like tweet google+ recommend Print Friendlyprint

Tyranny And Technology

Homeland Security, Liberty, Technology, The State

Other than for who will be missing from the event, the “South by Southwest (SXSW)” festival of “technology and innovation,” held in Austin, Texas, holds little interest for this scribe.

The three mighty men who’ll be absent from the venue that was “the launching pad of Twitter and Foursquare” are men who’ve truly used technology to advance the cause of freedom.

“Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, along with Glenn Greenwald, the journalist to whom he leaked his trove of classified government documents,” are scheduled to attend SXSW … but via videoconference.

“If Mr Assange and Mr Snowden were to set foot on US soil, they’d likely be arrested immediately for crimes against national security,” informs BBC News.

Sounds tyrannical to me.


like tweet google+ recommend Print Friendlyprint

UPDATED: Hollywood: The No-Good, The Bad & The Beastly

Celebrity, China, Film, Hollywood, Human Accomplishment, Intelligence, Sex, Technology

“Hollywood: The No-Good, The Bad & The Beastly” is the current column, now on WND. An excerpt:

“Glenn Close’s remarks, In Memoriam, at the 86th Academy Awards ceremony, captured the delusions of grandeur held by the “tarts and tards of Hollywood,” and helped by their fans.

The actress (or is it “actor”?) did not thank the dearly departed for merely entertaining the masses, which is all actors and directors are capable of doing. Oh no. Her deities were, instead, acknowledged for “mentoring us, challenging us, elevating us”; “they made us want to be better, and gave us a greater understanding of the human condition and the human heart,” language that should be reserved for the likes of Ayn Rand and Aristotle.

Where a motion picture has indeed transported anyone—it is because it cleaved to a decent script, usually a good book. “Gone With the Wind,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Midnight Express,” and “Papillon,” are examples.

Still, Hollywood is quite capable of reducing great literature to schmaltzy jingles, belted out by shrill starlets. This was the fate of “Les Misérables,” last year. Lost in the din were a lot of lessons about “the human condition.” The Victor-Hugo masterpiece I read as a kid was about France’s unfathomably cruel and unjust penal system, and the prototypical obedient functionary who worked a lifetime to enforce the system’s depredations—a lot like the powers that hounded Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit.com, to death, in 2013, and are intent on doing the same to the heroic Edward Snowden.

The dead were deified, but what of the walking dead?

To the Chinese, who appreciate the value of experience, the greater the ratio in a team of “grey hairs and no-hairs” to “black hairs”—the faster and better a task will be completed. The opposite assumption obtains in the youth-obsessed U.S.

On the old, Hollywood performs professional geronticide.

Aging actors are put out to pasture, retired into buffoonish, badly scripted roles (“Nebraska”). The annual Oscar Awards will see at least one old actor trotted out (in 2011, the “distinction” went to Kirk Douglas) from retirement. From the sympathetic thunder clap received by Harrison Ford, 71, this year, I’d say he’s ready to be retired.

Yes, a silly society is a youth-obsessed society. Duly, a precocious kid actor will typically cameo. This year, viewers were spared the spectacle. Tykes did, however, twerk and twirl with the adults in a Pharrell Williams routine, conjuring the current crop of Walt Disney cartoon characters (“Rio 1″). Once-upon-a-time, our beloved cartoons were cute, innocent and mischievous. Think Disney’s Donald Duck, Warner Brothers’ Bugs-Bunny and Amblimation’s Fievel of “An American Tail” fame.

Alas, like The Kids, the animated characters that festoon film nowadays sound and act as if created by another Victor (Frankenstein), combining pixelated bits of the putrefying Bethenny Frankel, and some “Mob Wives,” “Real Housewives,” and “Dance Moms,” for good measure. …

Read on. The complete column is “Hollywood: The No-Good, The Bad & The Beastly”now on WND.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

At the WND Comments Section. Scroll down and “Say it.”

On my Facebook page.

By clicking to “Like,” “Tweet” and “Share” this week’s “Return To Reason” column.

If you’d like to feature this column, WND’s longest-standing, exclusive paleolibertarian column, in or on your publication (paper or pixels), contact ilana@ilanamercer.com.

* For his help, I thank my young friend, movie maven Kerry Crowel.

UPDATED (3/7): Anyone who praises the Titanic idiocy as a “classic” is lacking critical faculties (see Facebook thread). The scenes of the ship going down are fun and well done. But as to the “story”: It includes the use of “Freudian slip,” before the term was known, among other Americanized inaccuracies, and the upstairs-downstairs dynamic and proletarian insurrection: Whence does that rot come? But then, if you read the comments @ WND Comments (http://www.wnd.com/…/hollywood-the-no-good-the-bad-and…/), you get that our readers are more comfortable with Bill O’Reilly’s “output” or that of Maureen Dowd at the NYT.


like tweet google+ recommend Print Friendlyprint

The Unchallenged Man Of The Year

Constitution, Fascism, Homeland Security, Technology, Terrorism, The State, Uncategorized

Those who are not suspended in the moral abyss with mainstream media already know that Edward Joseph Snowden is the best of America. (Included in the septic mainstream are the interchangeable females on a Fox News idiot’s extravaganza called ‘The Five.’ Said a nimble mind by the name of Andrea Tarantula: ‘If the [National Security Agency] are competent with my information; they can have it.’”)

“At 29, Snowden upended the National Security Agency on its own turf,” heroically bringing to light how—contrary to the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, in particular—the NSA had instituted “a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations.”.

One of the positive outcomes of Snowden’s actions is that “U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo,” are taking “extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government”:

Led by Google and then Yahoo, one company after another announced expensive plans to encrypt its data traffic over tens of thousands of miles of cable. It was a direct — in some cases, explicit — blow to NSA collection of user data in bulk. If the NSA wanted the information, it would have to request it or circumvent the encryption one target at a time.
As these projects are completed, the Internet will become a less friendly place for the NSA to work. The agency can still collect data from virtually anyone, but collecting from everyone will be harder.
The industry’s response, Smith acknowledged, was driven by a business threat. U.S. companies could not afford to be seen as candy stores for U.S. intelligence. But the principle of the thing, Smith said, “is fundamentally about ensuring that customer data is turned over to governments pursuant to valid legal orders and in accordance with constitutional principles.”

It is to a heroic young man such as this that we should all say: “Thank you for your service, Mr. Snowden.”

Have a happy New Year.
ilana


like tweet google+ recommend Print Friendlyprint

UPDATED: The TAO Of Tyranny (The Israeli Difference)

Government, Homeland Security, Israel, Technology, Terrorism, The State

The TAO of tyranny was devised in 1997. In the USA.

The German weekly Der Spiegel has performed the service the British Guardian performed before it. Once again it falls to the serious foreign press to expose the machinations of the U.S. state apparatus; in this case, the works of The Office of Tailored Access Operations, or Tao.

“… TAO … is the National Security Agency’s top operative unit — something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.” So writes Der Spiegel.

According to internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO’s area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage. The documents reveal just how diversified the tools at TAO’s disposal have become — and also how it exploits the technical weaknesses of the IT industry, from Microsoft to Cisco and Huawei, to carry out its discreet and efficient attacks. …

… one former TAO chief wrote … that TAO “needs to continue to grow and must lay the foundation for integrated Computer Network Operations,” and that it must “support Computer Network Attacks as an integrated part of military operations.” To succeed in this, she wrote, TAO would have to acquire “pervasive, persistent access on the global network.” An internal description of TAO’s responsibilities makes clear that aggressive attacks are an explicit part of the unit’s tasks. In other words, the NSA’s hackers have been given a government mandate for their work. During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries — nearly everywhere in the world. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.

Indeed, TAO specialists have directly accessed the protected networks of democratically elected leaders of countries. They infiltrated networks of European telecommunications companies and gained access to and read mails sent over Blackberry’s BES email servers, which until then were believed to be securely encrypted. Achieving this last goal required a “sustained TAO operation,” one document states.

This TAO unit is born of the Internet — created in 1997, a time when not even 2 percent of the world’s population had Internet access and no one had yet thought of Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. From the time the first TAO employees moved into offices at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, the unit was housed in a separate wing, set apart from the rest of the agency. Their task was clear from the beginning — to work around the clock to find ways to hack into global communications traffic.

… The TAO workers authorized to access the special, secure floor on which the unit is located are for the most part considerably younger than the average NSA staff member. Their job is breaking into, manipulating and exploiting computer networks, making them hackers and civil servants in one. Many resemble geeks — and act the part, too.

Their leader: the dangerous NSA Director, Keith Alexander.

Read on about “‘Computer Network Exploitation’ (CNE), the goal [of which] is to “subvert endpoint devices,” according to an internal NSA presentation that SPIEGEL has viewed. The presentation goes on to list nearly all the types of devices that run our digital lives — ‘servers, workstations, firewalls, routers, handsets, phone switches, SCADA systems, etc.’ SCADAs are industrial control systems used in factories, as well as in power plants. Anyone who can bring these systems under their control has the potential to knock out parts of a country’s critical infrastructure.”

The most well-known and notorious use of this type of attack was the development of Stuxnet, the computer worm whose existence was discovered in June 2010. The virus was developed jointly by American and Israeli intelligence agencies to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, and successfully so.

AND READ HOW TAO techies are “Having Fun at Microsoft’s Expense”—and at ours, since so many of us use Microsoft’s Windows.

UPDATED (12/31): The Israeli Difference, in reply to the Facebook Thread:

Israel possesses this capability, Don Darkes. But Israel seems far more prone to using these “tools” to do what they believe, and most of Israelis believe, is in the interest of national survival. The US state, however, turns on its own people, seldom acting in their interest. I mean, if Uncle Sam is so smart, and is spying on Mexico, why give drug dealers weapons to kill Americans and innocent Mexicans? A lot of people hate Israel. But a lot of what the state does (and I do not necessarily support these intrusions) is executed by a leadership that perceives its interest to be one with the people it represents. In other words, when Israelis release a cyber-virus on Iran, it is b/c Mosad members are not emigrating (they can’t; no one will have them). They want to secure the future of their own kind.


like tweet google+ recommend Print Friendlyprint