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Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC

RedBear Re:Join the slashdot farewell: (526 comments)

Maybe I'm missing something but isn't the entire point of the fuckbeta campaign to ruin the experience of coming here, to demonstrate to the idiots in charge of Slashdot that their website is worthless without our cooperative participation and contributions? By doing your best to quell our political dissent it could be said that it is you who are collaborating with Dice to flush our mutually favorite website down the toilet of corporate mediocrity.

The one last desperate chance we have to save this site (such as it is) is to destroy it, at least temporarily. I apologize for inconveniencing you during our brief struggle with corporate greed/stupidity.

And no, I will not hide behind anonymity.

Hopefully it's going to get real quiet in here in about twelve hours and you and your fellow collaborators can feel free to get together and blow smoke up each other's butts and pretend nothing is wrong in the resulting echo chamber.

Fuck beta, and boycott Slashdot Feb. 10th to 17th.

about 2 months ago

Researchers Try To "Close the Nutrient Cycle" Through Better Waste Recycling

RedBear Re:Is It Safe? (112 comments)

Since epidemiology is well outside my area of expertise, I have to ask: would this be safe?

With artificial fertilizers we don't have to be concerned about the purity of the material, whereas if we were to use natural fertilizers (animal or otherwise) it introduces all of the impurities and other undesirable byproducts that come with waste. And if we're talking about human waste in particular, does that mean this would create a new cycle for pathogens? Or is there a way to process waste to remove pathogens?

Having recently become much more educated than I used to be on this subject, I now find it hilarious (and a bit frightening) how disconnected modern society has become from good old Mother Nature. If you'll stop and think a moment you'll realize that we live on the surface of a planet where quadrillions of living organisms have been living, dying, urinating and defecating for billions of years, and until a veritable blink-of-an-eye ago there were no "waste treatment facilities" anywhere to be found. The very fact that our civilization requires artificial "waste treatment facilities" in order to survive is a symptom of just how totally disconnected we are from the natural cycles of life. Every living thing that has ever existed here for billions of years has lived by recycling nutrients from the bodily decay or waste products of other living things.

So, asking "if there is a way" to process waste to remove pathogens is a question that should answer itself now that we are all in the correct mindset. The answer of course is that nature _is_ a gigantic and unbelievably effective and efficient waste reprocessing facility. Step out of the door of your artificial housing construct and walk to any nearby location where you might be able to grow a plant and look down. That stuff underneath your feet is called "dirt". It's composed of minerals extracted from the air by plants, leeched out of rocks by water, and more rock bits ground up by glaciers. But most importantly it's composed of lots of chemicals and compounds that either used to be part of the body of some animal or plant, or was a waste product of a living organism. If dirt, the infinitely reprocessed waste product of billions of previous excreting organisms, was going to hurt us we'd already all be long dead.

The bacteria and other organisms that live in dirt evolved to live on the kinds of things we refer to as "waste". They reprocess it into yummy fertilized soil that plants love to grow in, and in the process kill off all the things we call "pathogens" that evolved to live inside us and are excreted in our waste. The worms and soil bacteria and the eventual heat of the full composting process creates a perfectly safe fertilizer from any kind of animal "manure", including human. They even have a name for the manure that comes from us: Humanure.

Using this purifying ability of nature, we can even make cheap and highly effective water filters that work by letting the soil bacteria in a column of sand kill off the "pathogens" in contaminated water as it trickles through the filter. The soil bacteria just gobbles up and destroys everything that we would refer to as a pathogen. Chemical toxins of course are a different matter. Many of those are unnatural to the environment and have to be dealt with in other ways, unfortunately. But animal waste? No problem. Nature takes care of that quite easily.

Now, the issue of urine separation turns out to be interesting for multiple reasons. Using urine separating toilets not only makes it immensely easier to separately process and use the urine for fertilizer, it also allows one to have a composting toilet that doesn't smell bad and holds a surprising amount of waste before it needs to be emptied. Apparently that horrible latrine, RV/boat holding tank smell is caused not by the solid waste itself but by mixing the urine and solids. Separating the urine and throwing a layer of something organic like peat moss over the solids creates a toilet that at worst has a mild "earthy" smell, like a forest on a rainy day. There's a great composting toilet design for boats/cabins that works this way called the C-Head. I find its design and functionality much more appealing than the many non-urine-separating styles of composting toilets on the market. There are some super-gross YouTube vids of how such toilets, uh, "work".

There's a guy, Michael Reynolds, who has been building homes he calls Earthships for more than four decades now that require no public infrastructure connection. They process all the generated wastewater on-site using a built-in greenhouse full of plants and trees. Earthships don't even require a septic tank except to comply with some local building codes. And yes, that greenhouse includes food plants, and the food plants grown in wastewater are perfectly safe to eat. They've been tested by the same government facilities that test city water supplies and they come back with far lower levels of pathogens than you'll find in your local grocery store's produce. I'd highly recommend that anyone interested in this subject get some of Reynolds' books and videos. It's pretty fascinating stuff. They also do a lot of great work teaching people in super poor and devastated areas like Jamaica, Guatemala, Africa and Indonesia how to build their own Earthship type buildings for homes and schools. Like this. Good stuff. Also look for "Garbage Warrior" on YouTube. There's a full-length documentary.

So, yeah. Mother Nature is amazing, and we need to quit wasting mind-boggling amounts of energy inefficiently trying to artificially recreate what it already does just fine. Like processing "waste" (aka "nutrients") into "food". I mean, that's practically the very definition of what "nature" is!

about 2 months ago

Meet the Electric Porsche From 1898

RedBear Re:Generalizing much? (143 comments)

Does the article really need to begin with ridiculous generalization?
"We all talk about the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf as if electric cars are brand-new. In fact, electric cars were around long before you were alive, or your father, or maybe even your grandfather. It turns out...."
Yes, yes - the readers on slashdot are morons, who have absolutely no idea about most basic technology. "We all" are so dumb, we think the wheel was invented yesterday. Hurr-durr...

I may know that the first electric batteries were created thousands of years ago, but I had never realized or come across information that anyone had made a functional electric car so long ago, and with a range of nearly fifty miles, no less. I find this information new, interesting and fascinating. Lacking this information makes me ignorant on this particular subject, not stupid.

There's only one jackass here making ridiculous generalizations. Knowing a fact that someone else doesn't know does not mean you are smarter than them. It just means you're temporarily more knowledgeable on that particular subject. Ignorance is easily corrected. Stupidity, not so much.

about 3 months ago

Atlanta Gambled With Winter Storm and Lost

RedBear Re:Canadian driving (723 comments)

There is another aspect to this that nobody seems to be mentioning (or maybe not aware of): Tires. I would suspect that a lot of the people in southern places where it is normally quite warm all year round (and very hot in the summer) are driving on what are called "summer" tires. Out of the three general grades of tire (summer, all-season, and mud+snow/winter), summer tires use the hardest rubber formula to maintain a useful lifetime and have the appropriate level of road grip in high temperatures, and on top of that they have relatively smooth tread patterns with few edges to present to the road surface.

Unfortunately in colder temperatures the rubber in summer tires becomes very hard and inflexible, like plastic. They're basically completely useless below about 45-55 degrees F. You might as well be riding a plastic sled down the road when it's icy. Your winter driving skills make very little difference when you literally have no traction whatsoever. You can slide hundreds of feet down any slight grade on summer tires with the brakes on all the way, and all the traction control and ABS in the world, and never even slow down until you physically hit something. I believe this tire issue is a hidden but important contributor to the relative chaos that occurs when it snows or ices up in southern latitudes.

Meanwhile, people living in more northern latitudes almost exclusively drive on what are referred to as "all-season" tires, which are a compromise tire using slightly softer rubber and more complex tread patterns with more angles and edges. They wear out faster in hot weather, but if one drives slowly and is _very_ careful, it is usually possible to drive fairly safely in cold weather, even in bare ice conditions (as long as the road is fairly flat). With most all-season tires you'll still only have about 10-20% of your normal warm-weather traction in freezing weather, but the difference between 10% and 0% traction is huge.

Note that if you live in an area where temperatures are mostly within 15-20 degrees of freezing (or below), you really should be driving on true "winter" tires during the colder parts of the year, even if the temperature rarely drops near or below freezing. This is especially true if the weather is often wet in your area. Also note that a lot of "mud+snow" tires are often just all-season tires with certain tread patterns and many M+S tires can't hold a candle to the traction of many of the true winter tires that have come out in the last decade. The best winter tires that have come out in recent years make driving on wet ice feel almost like driving on dry pavement. They are truly amazing. Educate yourself if you live in a colder climate. It could save your life.

An instructive video is here, showing just how useless summer tires are on ice:

My favorite winter tire video, a new tire from Nokian Tyres (the Finnish company that supposedly created the world's first winter tire back in the 1930s) which has its own built in grit(!):

about 3 months ago

200 Dolphins Await Slaughter In Japan's Taiji Cove

RedBear Re:Local customs can change. (628 comments)

Speaking of WWII and Japan, we encouraged them to eat more dolphin and whale when we were rebuilding them. Custom? Please. It's a dying generation remembering what they ate in grade school because that was the cheapest meat available, and an industry which doesn't want to admit to it's shareholders that it's time to fold.

The funniest part of this whole affair to me is two things (if the movie The Cove is to be believed). First, the people trying to protect the dolphins apparently offered to pay the dolphin fishermen more than the dolphin meat was worth in exchange for NOT killing the dolphins. The fisherman refused (allegedly). So clearly the dolphin killing is not about making money, but rather a sort of local cultural thing they've become very stubbornly and emotionally attached to. They'd rather kill dolphins and make less money than not kill dolphins and make more money.

Second, dolphins and whales, being at the top of their respective food chains, have highly toxic levels of mercury in their tissues and are basically unfit for human consumption, and probably will be until we can completely clear the oceanic food chain of mercury and other bio-accumulative toxins. Yet this prefecture not only sells this meat in local grocery stores but also for a while forced it to be used as part of their school lunch programs, causing an epidemic of mercury-induced mental retardation in their children. Even better, Japanese school children are required to eat what they are given in school, so it's not like you could tell your kid to opt out of eating the mercury-laden dolphin meat.

I like a lot of things about Japan and Japanese culture. But there is one thing that cannot be argued with. They are really some of the weirdest people on Earth in many ways, and it's very difficult for an outsider to understand a lot of their cultural motivations. The way that they continue to stubbornly fight for their right to slaughter dolphins for food, and to take whales in international waters for "research" (and then sell the whale meat for food) even though the meat has such toxic levels of mercury is something that confounds my understanding. My best guess is that it has something to do with the whole Asian "saving face" concept as well as nostalgia. I get the feeling that they feel they would be dishonored as a culture and made to appear weak if they admitted that they were doing something most of the rest of the world now finds highly repugnant, so they continue to insist that there is absolutely nothing wrong with what they are doing. The only way to get them to stop is to find a way to let them stop doing it without looking like they're backing down and admitting they're doing something "wrong". But it's become at this point so much of a "Japan against the World" scenario that a resolution is going to be very difficult.

But I'm sure the issue is actually a great deal more complicated than it appears on the surface, involving not just culture and honor and nostalgia but politics and lots of money as well. It may be easier to find peace in the Middle East than to get the Japanese to stop whaling and killing dolphins. If they ever do stop it will likely be something they decide to do on their own from the pressure of some internal cultural change.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Often-Run Piece of Code -- Ever?

RedBear Re:Obligatory (533 comments)

Every Ask Slashdot gets a comment pointing out that it's the dumbest Ask Slashdot ever, I know.

This time, it's really, really the case.

On the contrary. Unless you have a definitive and provably correct answer to this particular Ask Slashdot, which I didn't notice you providing, I would assert that it's an interesting question and you're just being a jackass.

about 3 months ago

Oracle Seeking Community Feedback on Java 8 EE Plans

RedBear Real mature (109 comments)

So is Slashdot not capable of having any kind of informative conversation about one of the most commercially popular and long-lived everyday programming languages, because "Oracle, LOL" and "Java applets suck"?

Popped in here hoping to see some insightful discussion about the future of Java, to help inform my possible decision as to whether or not to spend a lot of time and effort becoming a Java developer. So far, sadly disappointed. Nothing but Java and Oracle jokes as old as the hills.

Then again, this is Slashdot. I don't know why I was expecting any kind of mature conversation about Java.

about 3 months ago

Windows 9 Already? Apparently, Yes.

RedBear Re:Begin mass speculatrometer (1009 comments)

Knowing Microsoft, this is what they're going to do:

- Remove Right-Click capability
- Remove all menu bars and hotkeys
- Require SuperAdmin privileges for everything from resizing a window to shutting down the computer
- Make MSOffice 100% touch-screen compatible, removing all mouse compatibility
- Make ribbons 60% bigger
- Remove ability to save over existing files

Sounds funny now, but come back in five years and marvel at how prescient and insightful you were.

These days, every ridiculous internet joke seems to end up coming true in spades in real life.

about 3 months ago

Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

RedBear Re:Depends (937 comments)

Legal liability aside, there is another layer to this issue of self driving cars that I don't really see anyone discussing.

Unlike human drivers who may be statistically identical in aggregate in their reactions, a self driving vehicle AI will essentially be identical to every other self driving AI of the same version produced by the same AI manufacturer. We take individual human drivers off the road when they demonstrate that they can't be trusted to drive safely. But when it comes to AI drivers people will realize that it is as if the same individual human were driving half a million different cars, therefore if there is a problem with one AI there could be the same problem in all the other AIs of the same type. If you thought the Tesla fire reporting was ridiculous, just wait until a half dozen self driving cars get into fatal accidents within a few days of each other. Given the public's typical poor understanding of software they will demand the immediate recall if not just a single revision of a specific AI but the recall or disabling of all autonomous AIs on the road, pending a full safety investigation.

Given a sufficient number of self driving cars being driven in sufficiently bad weather and/or traffic conditions, I would say that multiple fatal crashes and the ensuing negative public reaction will be inevitable. It may not even get that far. Who wants to bet that about the third or fourth child verifiably run down and killed by a self driving car won't bring the entire self driving car industry to an abrupt halt? Anyone?

The way I see it, self driving vehicles should remain restricted to tracks for now, and AI should continue to be applied to passenger vehicles the way it's already starting to be applied, as automatic safety features that kick in to help you avoid backing over children, falling asleep at the wheel, getting into a collision when a car up ahead suddenly slams on the brakes and things like that. For now, the human should continue to be fully in charge, alert and aware of what's going on, with the AI being an emergency backup in extreme circumstances. Going full AI on roads with mixed AI and human traffic is just a really bad idea that will eventually backfire in a big way and turn public opinion entirely against the idea of self driving vehicles. It really won't matter if self driving vehicles are provably statistically safer than humans or not. In order to be trusted their record will need to be beyond spotless, which is of course impossible.

about 3 months ago

The Geek Group's Hacker-Oriented High Voltage Lab In Michigan Damaged by Fire

RedBear Never heard of them (65 comments)

It's very weird to me that I've been reading /. and other geeky websites for a decade and a half and I've never, ever heard of this "The Geek Group" with 25,000 members and a 42,000 square foot headquarters/lab facility. What is their purpose? Should I have heard of them? Where would I hear about them, if not here? Am I supposed to turn in my geek card if I have no idea who these people are? Are they the ones that issue geek cards in the first place?

Questions abound.

about 3 months ago

Coming Soon: Prescription Lenses For Google Glass

RedBear Re:Only when you can't tell that glasses have it (195 comments)

The problem you're describing could be mitigated somewhat if the glasses had forward-facing LEDs which turn on whenever the camera is engaged. Then you could be reasonably sure that most people are not, in fact, videoing you all the time. For the small percent who want to do this anyway, sure they could paint over the LEDs, but then they could just wear a buttonhole camera anyway. You're not going to stop surreptitious recording now that the technology is small enough.

Here's one other way it can go down, though:

The next generation of teenagers becomes the first wide adopters of the technology. You can guess the marketing strategies: have pop idols be seen with them, have the next generation's Hannah Montana wearing them. They're fun, kids! Record good times with your friends! Record that important history class for a friend who's sick! Record a POV of your mad skateboarding skills and upload instantly to {hot social media platform du jour}.

In short, produce a generation that is used to filming and being filmed 24/7/365. The same way we've produced a generation that's used to being online all the time. It's possible, right? Especially if the parents are resisting it, the kids'll be wild for it.

This kind of thing always sounds great on paper, until this new adventurous and uninhibited UNDERAGE generation ends up "accidentally" recording and sharing videos of themselves in the nude, showering, taking a dump, and having sexy time with themselves and others in their age group. Until society at large, and especially law enforcement, learns to accept and avoid overreacting to underage nudity and erotic activities that any fool already knows underage people in every generation engage in almost without exception, the advent of truly ubiquitous 24/7/365 recording of human life is going to be an absolute disaster for millions of individuals in coming decades. It's going to set off a whole new epic level of moral panic.

Many young people who had the temerity to turn 18 while in possession of old nude camera phone images of themselves or their girlfriend/boyfriend taken while someone was still underage have already started to get into serious legal trouble, so don't even pretend this isn't going to be a huge issue once everyone starts walking around with a permanently attached and active video camera on their almost-invisible stereo bluetooth headset. Yeah, we'll see lots of cool POV skateboarding tricks and crazy base jumping and stuff like that, but we'll also see a whole bunch of things that tens of millions of really uptight adults are absolutely not ready to see being broadcast to the public on the FaceBooks of the near future.

Mark my words. Universal recording is something that's really going to knock society on its ear, and it will take quite a long time before things settle down. Probably two or three generations at least.

about 3 months ago

Coming Soon: Prescription Lenses For Google Glass

RedBear Re:Only when you can't tell that glasses have it (195 comments)

As long as Google Glass looks like Locutus-of-Borg cosplay, there will be pushback from people who don't want to be seen with it.

The display needs to be embedded transparently in the lenses itself, and the other components need to be integrated into a thin, ordinary-looking temple piece.

That will just make it worse.

If it becomes difficult for people to tell that you're wearing something like Google Glass versus just a regular pair of glasses, this is going to become a very unpleasant world to live in for those of us who require corrective lenses and who don't want to or cannot wear contacts. As the technology improves over time it becomes inevitable that "smart" glasses will become indistinguishable from normal glasses, but long before it becomes literally true the public will start to believe that it's already true. We're going to start having irrational assholes everywhere, even in completely public places, going up to people and demanding they take off their glasses and "stop recording me!". This will of course include some of the biggest assholes of all: law enforcement officers.

As a wearer of corrective lenses I do not look forward to this brave new world where everyone who wears glasses will be subjected to suspicious glares or even physically accosted for no good reason because no one can tell whether or not you're surreptitiously recording them. As we all know too well, when people aren't sure about something they instinctively default to "Kill it with Fire!".

Thanks a lot, Google. Like we needed another witch hunt trigger. I guess I better start saving up for Lasik treatments.

When we finally perfect wireless bionic retinal implants with decent resolution the world is going to go absolutely apeshit with paranoia about being secretly recorded.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Best App For Android For Remote Access To Mac Or PC?

RedBear LogMeIn (165 comments)

Kind of surprised nobody has mentioned LogMeIn. It's free for personal use on up to 10 computers. There's a LogMeIn app for iOS and Android, which is free*. Then there's LogMeIn Ignition ($30), which lets you do file transfers, printing and other useful things if you're using LogMeIn Pro on the computers, which I think is something like $70 per computer per year. I bought LogMeIn Ignition for my iPad a couple years back and I've been using the free version of LogMeIn to connect remotely to Windows and Macs for years. Seems to work well even on relatively slow connections and on networks with fairly restricted firewall setups on either or both ends. I've even used it over a 3G connection, connecting to a 27" iMac no less.

LogMeIn are the ones who bought Hamachi, which lets you easily set up secure private networks between collections of Macs and PCs. Also free for personal use, up to five computers or something like that. Been using Hamachi to get secure remote access to certain oddball ports/services on remote computers for several years now. Hamachi however seems to have trouble connecting if certain ports are blocked on the network, so I've had much better luck using LogMeIn for remote desktop connections.

Not affiliated, just a satisfied user of both products. I haven't had any significant experience with TeamViewer so I can't make any direct comparisons, but I do know that when I was checking them out I didn't much care for how anal retentive TeamViewer is about licensing.

* I can't find the free LogMeIn app for Android. Maybe there isn't one. So I guess that leaves LogMeIn Ignition for Android, which is $30. It's one of the most expensive apps I ever put on my iPad (1st Gen), but it's been helpful enough and reliable enough that I think I can recommend purchasing it for Android if you like LogMeIn, especially if you want to do easy file transfers between your computer and your device.

about 3 months ago

Red Light Camera Use Declined In 2013 For the First Time

RedBear Re:Drivers are responsible for accidents, not came (348 comments)

I must say I do not associate myself with any political party and do not even live in US.

But anyway, since you mentioned DOT, I'd assume you are in US. And as a matter of fact there is a standard 'Yellow change intervals' in US: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/signtech/signdel/trafficmanual-current.htm , chapter 9, section 9-04.5. It didn't take me too long to find that.

So, this effectively means that either US authorities on some levels were engaging in awfully dangerous and illegal activities by shortening yellow light time or that shortening is purely perceptual. I'm not sure which one it is :).

You got it. It's the first one. Dangerous and illegal. As measured in the real world. How are you not sure? I just told you which it is.

But RLCs have really nothing to do with any of this. If some authority can go against the law and make yellow light shorter than required - that is the problem unrelated to RLCs. It's like banning bullet proof vests after some policeman suffocates his wife in it.

RLCs act as a deterrent for some drivers to run red lights, and as such they can save lives, and so they should be used, not banned.

Wait, no, you didn't get it at all. And that's the most nonsensical analogy I've heard in a long time.

Statistically red light cameras DO NOT increase safety. Statistically they DECREASE safety. We have years of actual traffic and accident data now to support the statistics. These are now established facts. We know WHY they don't increase safety. How the hell is this difficult to understand? Stop listening to the echo in your own head. Just because you think something SHOULD work in theory doesn't mean that it WILL work in the real world. Red light cameras DON'T work to increase traffic safety in the real world. Fact, not opinion.

I can't rightly fathom how anyone could have such poor reading comprehension as to continue to fail to understand how the yellow light delays and increase in accidents at red lights is directly related to the (usually marred by corrupt profit motives) installation of red light cameras. I was as explicit and thorough as I could be. I'm sorry that I've failed you.

about 4 months ago

Red Light Camera Use Declined In 2013 For the First Time

RedBear Re:Drivers are responsible for accidents, not came (348 comments)

Wow. Lemme guess. Ultra-conservative Republican?

Simple question: If they set yellow light delays in your area to be so short that the yellow light changes before you can count to "one" out loud, would you blame yourself for running all the red lights, or do you think you might start blaming some external cause?

If you could get off the moralistic "I'm superior to everyone else" high-horse tirade for a moment you might be able to open your eyes to the fact that yellow light delay timing has been routinely shortened at traffic stops where red light cameras are installed. There are documented cases of the delay being shortened from something reasonable and safe like 4 seconds to something completely UNREASONABLE and UNSAFE like 0.9 seconds. Yes, that's zero-point-nine seconds. This has two side effects. First, it makes it almost physically impossible to successfully come to a safe stop from the posted speed limit without running the red light. Your moral fortitude or superior driving ability will not help you do the impossible. At least, not safely.

Second, after local drivers (even morally-superior drivers just like you!) get a few red light tickets in the mail, it strongly encourages one of two behaviors (or both): (1) Approaching all traffic lights at a crawl in order to have some chance of avoiding a red light ticket, or (2) slamming on the brakes as hard as possible the instant you see the yellow light. Both of these behaviors, in direct response to the shortened yellow light delays, have drastically increased the risk of both rear-ending and t-boning accidents at traffic lights where red light cameras are installed. Of course I guess it also encourages drivers to slam on the gas and try to get through the intersection if they happen to think they're close enough and can't stop in time. So, short yellow light delays are bad news all around.

Couple this with the fact that this shortening of the yellow light delay provides an increased revenue stream to both the local law enforcement department and THE COMPANY THAT INSTALLED AND RUNS THE RED LIGHT CAMERAS, and you have what some people like to refer to as a HIGHLY CORRUPT MONEY GRAB that just makes red light stops far more dangerous than they ever have been. The accident statistics at RLC stops speak for themselves. An increase in accidents are in fact being CAUSED by the installation of red light cameras and the corresponding shortening of yellow light delays, and the corresponding behaviors that are a DIRECT response to the new traffic signal conditions.

This is absolutely NOT just a bunch of bad drivers complaining about getting tickets and blaming the red light cameras for their own bad behavior. Believe me, I'll be happy to go on all day about bad drivers and the stupidity of insisting we both have the right and that it's perfectly safe to constantly drive 15 MPH above any posted speed limits and follow too closely at freeway speeds and other things like that, but this is not a case of bad drivers being stupid. This is a case of humans being human and physics being physics and corrupt and unsafe law enforcement practices being corrupt and unsafe law enforcement practices. And we need to put this unsafe practice to a stop or put some very tight regulations on how the departments are allowed to set up an RLC stop, such as mandating that they absolutely WILL NOT under any circumstances shorten the yellow light delay. That delay should be entirely up to the D.O.T. traffic safety studies and I don't know how anybody got away with changing it in the first place.

And you know, the world is not just a black & white choice between ultra-draconian law enforcement and total anarchy. There is usually a place somewhere in the middle where things actually work out pretty well. Your attitude reminds of the classic Reagan-era Bloom County strip where they had a hooded executioner posted at the checkout counter of a supermarket to execute people for silly things like squeezing the Charmin. But hey, I'm all for jailing the corrupt creeps in law enforcement who ILLEGALLY shortened the yellow light delays below well-established D.O.T. safety minimums so they could make themselves and the red light camera companies more money while completely disregarding actual traffic safety concerns.

If red light cameras have a place in our traffic system at all they should be used only to monitor traffic patterns and single out those few drivers that are actually bad drivers, who routinely fail to stop at red lights or have a bad habit of always speeding up instead of slowing down on yellow. Those drivers should be identified and sent to remedial training or have their licenses revoked if they continue to endanger people with bad driving.

But if we had acceptable and federally mandated standards of yellow light delay timing, especially with the new timer displays I've seen appearing that tell you exactly how much time you have before the light turns red, I have a strong suspicion that speeding up on yellow can be almost completely eliminated. A reliable and reasonable yellow light delay would automatically condition drivers to have a correct and reasonable response to seeing a yellow light. And as has been pointed out by others, the very simple addition of a slight 1-2 second delay where both sides of the intersection are red would do wonders for reducing t-boning accidents, especially in bad weather conditions.

about 4 months ago

Safari Stores Previous Browsing Session Data Unencrypted

RedBear Re:Really, Slashdot? (135 comments)

Look closer. It's not the part of a URL - it's a part of form data.

If you track back, you'll see that URL is just "http://gmail.com/", and then follows "application/x-www-form-urlencoded", which contains that login and password.

It doesn't show up on the screen like that - it's sent as a POST request, and "restoring the session" this way in this specific case sounds weird - there's that thing called "cookie", which keeps your session open between browser shutdowns, is not replayable and doesn't contain the auth info to steal...

If this is true (and it certainly appears to be), then I guess that implies that the user credential data was in fact constructed by Safari and not included in a URL by the website, and I'm a moron and most of my previous posts should be modded down to oblivion. Also, Apple should be slapped for bad security practices and revealing user passwords and logins in plain text outside of the keychain. Unfortunately I am at my limit of knowing how to parse the information from the screenshot and know where it really came from. So, I'll shut up now.

I can at least confirm that passwords are not revealed in this way with Safari 7.0 on Mavericks. When I log in to Gmail and grep for my password in LastSession.plist I get no match.

about 4 months ago

Safari Stores Previous Browsing Session Data Unencrypted

RedBear Re:Really, Slashdot? (135 comments)

The LastSession.plist file stores way, way more data than just URL's.

When I log into my bank account, my username and password are not in the URL and certainly not passed unencrypted over the wire. They are happily stored in the LastSession.plist file though.

I'm using Safari 7 on Mavericks, so it clearly isn't fixed in the latest version.

So you're saying you found your banking website login credentials stored in plain text in your LastSession.plist file while you were using Safari 7, and that information is absolutely not in the URL of the web page?

I can't replicate this using my banking site with Safari 7.0 on Mavericks. Nothing shows up when I grep my LastSession.plist file after logging in to my bank's website. Not my username or my password. By all means report it if true. I can't imagine how Apple would really be dumb enough to store secure login data that belongs in the keychain in a simple plain text plist file, but if you have evidence that they are that dumb, reveal it. They should by all means be slapped if so.

The only evidence that I've so far seen is a screenshot of login credentials revealed in a URL, which they just didn't encrypt in exactly the same way that bookmarks aren't encrypted. What you're claiming you've seen would be a far worse security screw up than just storing URLs unencrypted.

about 4 months ago

Safari Stores Previous Browsing Session Data Unencrypted

RedBear Re:Really, Slashdot? (135 comments)

SSL (https) only sends the HOST as part of the request header unencrypted, the /GET (i.e. path and variables) are transmitted encrypted. Therefore the full URL with paths and variables exposes more than what would normally be visible "over the wire".

Thanks, I didn't know that.

Nevertheless the practice of putting login credentials in the URL is extremely bad and the session file with saved URLs is just one of several places where someone accessing your computer can see URLs, like in the address bar itself and in saved bookmarks. Encrypting the session file is sort of like putting a bandaid on a severed femoral artery. Another bandaid would be encrypting HTTPS bookmarks and obscuring the text in the address bar on HTTPS sites unless you enter a master password to reveal it. But that would be kind of ridiculous, wouldn't it?

The websites that are still putting your username and password in their URLs are the ones who should be named and shamed. Whether they are using SSL or not, it's a terrible practice, for precisely the reason that you have no idea how the URLs may be stored or revealed by the end user's computer.

about 4 months ago

Safari Stores Previous Browsing Session Data Unencrypted

RedBear Re:Really, Slashdot? (135 comments)

...Second, as already pointed out on the MacRumors forums, the stored "session" data is merely the URLs of the web pages you have open, which is passed over the wire in plain text anyway when you open or reopen the URL.

along with the password and login.

from the article: "the login and password are not encrypted (see the red oval in the screenshot).

Yes, I know. The login and password credentials in the red oval are encoded in the stored URL of a web page that was open in a tab in a Safari browsing session. Those URLs are created by the websites you visit, not by Safari. Safari just stores the URLs so that your tabs can be reloaded when you reopen the browser. Safari isn't secretly copying your login data in plain text and then failing to encrypt it, it's just storing the URLs you currently have open in your browsing session. There's nothing sinister or incompetent going on here.

It's good that they are now encrypting the stored browser session file. It certainly doesn't hurt anything to have another layer of protection. But that same URL information will be stored, unencrypted, in any bookmark that you make when visiting such a website while you are logged in. If someone sits at your computer and examines your bookmarks or looks at the URL in your open tabs they will see your login credentials in such URLs. Unless you want to be forced to enter a master password every time you try to edit a bookmark, use a bookmark, or examine the URL in the address bar, there is no solution to this. The solution for protecting the saved session file is FileVault, and locking your computer when you aren't sitting in front of it, which is exactly the same way you protect all the other vulnerable data in your user account.

The root cause of the login credentials being revealed in plain text in bookmarks, the session file and the address bar is the deplorable practice of websites putting your login and password in the URL in plain text. The solution to this is to smack the websites upside the head until they modify their security practices.

about 4 months ago

Safari Stores Previous Browsing Session Data Unencrypted

RedBear Really, Slashdot? (135 comments)


First, it's previous versions of Safari that are affected. Interesting how that isn't even mentioned.

Second, as already pointed out on the MacRumors forums, the stored "session" data is merely the URLs of the web pages you have open, which is passed over the wire in plain text anyway when you open or reopen the URL.

If you're encrypting your drive with FileVault and have a decent password on your user account, this becomes entirely an issue with the piss-poor security practices of the STUPID WEBSITES that are revealing your login information in plain text right in the URL. Any bookmark of such a URL with also "reveal" your "unencrypted" login credentials. Which is entirely the fault of the website.

Also, it's fixed in latest Safari.

So... yeah. End of the world, apparently.

about 4 months ago



TrueCrypt 5.0 Released, supports Mac OS X

RedBear RedBear writes  |  more than 6 years ago

RedBear writes "TrueCrypt 5.0 has just been released and is available for download from truecrypt.org. Finally the long-awaited graphical versions for Mac OS X and Linux are here, with the ability to create and manipulate TrueCrypt volumes natively without third-party GUI interfaces, although the ability to create hidden volumes seems to still be restricted to the Windows version. This is the first iteration of TrueCrypt available that supports Mac OS X. There are versions available for Tiger and Leopard on PowerPC and Intel. Is a usable totally cross-platform method of encrypting portable storage devices finally within our grasp? Grab the files and help test it out on as many platform combinations as possible, and we'll find out. Comments about additional alternatives for true cross-platform (and easy to use!) file-level and full-disk encryption are welcome as always. Since my last posting on the release of TrueCrypt 4.3 in early 2007 I still have found nothing in the real world that could compare in usability and runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, despite several comments to the contrary. But I enjoy being proven wrong! The closest I've come so far is EncFS on FUSE which has been much too complicated to set up so far. Interestingly, the new Mac OS X TrueCrypt version also installs MacFUSE 1.3."

RedBear RedBear writes  |  more than 6 years ago

RedBear writes "Recently I've been researching the idea of setting up a computer system like the Mac mini on small to medium-size boats, for use as on-board entertainment centers and/or computer navigation systems. One of my main concerns has been figuring out whether the hard drive will need to be replaced with solid-state media in order to be completely reliable. Having been conditioned by various information sources over the years to treat a spinning hard drive like a baby made of eggshells, I was surprised to find many "car PC" enthusaists commenting in forums that they've had absolutely no problems using desktop hard drives in moving vehicles for years. I've also been surprised to find very little information about or mounting systems for "ruggedizing" hard drives for mobile use, besides some references to sticking a bit of rubber between the drive and the mounting frame, which really seems inadequate. So I'm left wondering, just how delicate is the modern hard drive, really? Are they hardier than I've always been led to believe? Is a modern hard drive ever actually likely to die from just being bumped around a bit, or do they usually die nowadays for other, more mysterious reasons?

Here's the scenario: A small boat (15-35ft) traveling on choppy or rough seas at various speeds can encounter several different kinds of motion, and that motion can shift very suddenly from going in one direction to going in a perpendicular or opposite direction. With the wrong hull design, cruising speeds or wave crest spacings, resonant vibrations can develop that can practically shake your teeth out of your head at times. Go over a big wave the wrong way and you can find yourself doing a belly-flop or nose-dive a dozen or more feet down into the trough behind it, with a nice resounding thump. Again entirely dependent on hull design and angle of incidence, but the harder you hit the water, the harder it hits back. Then there is the lovely continuous rocking (technically, pitching) and rolling that never really stops when you're in unprotected waters, and can vary from -85 to 85 degrees from one moment to the next. I can't imagine any of this motion being good for any kind of hard drive.

Now, a computer like a laptop or the Mac mini has a notebook-size 2.5" hard drive, which by all accounts will be more resistant to G-force shocks than a typical desktop-size 3.5" hard drive. I've read that this is mostly because of their use of "ramp load/unload" technology, where the drive head never touches the platters. Recently some desktop hard drives have started to use this ramp loading technology, so does that mean those desktop drives will be just as shock-resistant as notebook drives, or is the size difference also important? And just how motion resistant are the notebook drives, in a practical outside-the-testing-lab sense?

Some laptops and even drives these days also have motion sensors that will trigger the drive to park the heads during excessive movement, like when a laptop gets pulled off a table onto the floor. I have to guess on this but I'm suspecting these motion sensing systems would get triggered far too often, possibly interrupting the computer during important read or write activities, at best causing a performance hit and at worst crashing the system if it happens too often. So this doesn't seem like the ultimate solution for a drive that may be affected by nearly continuous strong G-forces.

Is anyone here experienced with building systems like this? I'm not talking about a typical car-PC traveling around on mostly paved city streets, I'm talking about a system that will stay functional and reliable while strapped in the back of a racing pickup while it goes through a thousand-mile off-road race through the Mojave desert. Does any company make mounting systems specifically for this kind of use, or is it totally nonsensical to expect any hard drive to survive under such conditions? My Google-fu may not be the best in the world, but I can usually ferret out what I'm looking for, and I've found basically zilch on ruggedized hard drives or mounting systems for either hard drives or computers in high G-force environments.

Keep in mind, one of my main goals is to keep costs as low as possible, so it would be interesting but pointless to discuss commercial solutions that cost a small fortune. The available specialized marine computer systems I saw seem to be designed for large commercial vessels and are horrendously expensive. We aren't talking about military clients here, just regular people who happen to live and/or work on boats. I just want to be able to take a regular computer and make a few ehancements that would allow it to be used on a boat reliably for years under any possible circumstances. Thus one of the main problems with solid-state media, it would cost 3-5 times as much to get 1/10th to 1/5th of the storage capacity, and that's comparing it to notebook hard drives. 160GB notebook HDD = $110, 16GB UDMA CompactFlash card = $300. With desktop hard drives the cost vs. capacity gap widens even further.

This is even more of a problem because one of the main advantages to using a system like the Mac mini would be its ability to run Windows in a virtual machine for access to a lot of Windows-only navigation, mapping/charting and GPS software as well as Windows-only drivers for GPS hardware, while still having access to the great stability and usability experience of Mac OS X, including the multimedia aspects like gigs of music and MP4/DivX rips of movies. The most recent versions of Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion both have snapshotting and reversion capabilities which would make it incredibly simple for non-technical users to recover from Windows software glitches while out at sea, and keep their software navigation systems working under almost any circumstances. But installing multiple operating systems (and keeping backups) and having access to all those multimedia files means you need plenty of disk space. For most people, obtaining an adequate amount of solid-state storage to really replace a 100+ gigabyte hard drive would be very cost-prohibitive.

If you were tasked with "ruggedizing" a computer system for use under similar circumstances, how would you go about it? How would you make a mounting system to protect a computer from G-forces that may sometimes be the equivalent of, let's say, being dropped on a carpeted floor from about desk height, over and over again? I don't think a couple of rubber feet will be quite enough, and I'm very interested in hearing ideas on simple padding and suspension systems that could isolate a computer from this level of G-shock. A bungie-cord type suspension system would probably just exacerbate the bouncing motion. It would need to be something different, something that would really dampen sudden motion rather than reacting to it. My only idea so far is complicated, probably expensive, and has something to do with counterweights, pulleys, copper tubing and neodymium magnets. Alternatives are welcome, as are any comments pointing out that I'm being ridiculous for thinking computers are so delicate. Am I? Please back up any such statements with references, of course."

RedBear RedBear writes  |  about 7 years ago

RedBear writes "A new update to the best open source transparent encryption software has been released. Sadly there is still no Linux GUI or Mac OS X port in sight. If you are one of the thronging hordes who have been patiently awaiting ubiquitous multi-platform encryption please consider donating time or money to the cause, and add your voice to the forum so the developers get some idea of how many of us need this software to work on other platforms. For those not in the know, TrueCrypt is (the only?) open source encryption software capable of creating and mounting encrypted virtual disk images that can then be worked with transparently like any other storage drive, with data being encrypted and decrypted in real-time. These virtual disks can be created as files, or entire partitions or physical drives can be encrypted and mounted transparently. Also including features like plausible deniability, steganographically hidden volumes, unidentifiable partition headers, traveller mode, and your choice of the strongest available encryption algorithms up to and including multi-algorithm cascades, it is practically the Holy Grail for advocates of free ubiquitous encryption. Now, if only it was platform independent. From the site:

We are pleased to announce that TrueCrypt 4.3 has been released. Among the new features is full compatibility with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista, support for devices and file systems that use a sector size other than 512 bytes (such as new hard drives, USB flash drives, DVD-RAM, MP3 players, etc.), auto-dismount when a host device (e.g., a USB flash drive) is inadvertently removed, and many more. In addition to new features, there are many significant improvements.
To reduce load on their servers here are some Coralized versions of all the links above:

TrueCrypt home page
Future development goals
Forum thread about Mac OS X version
Donations page
General forum
Plausible deniability
Hidden volumes
Traveller mode
Encryption algorithms
Multi-algorithm cascades
Version history"

RedBear RedBear writes  |  more than 7 years ago

RedBear writes "If you were looking for 3D graphics suitable for use with computerized carving machines or 3D printers, where would you go? The few sources I've seen online have a rather dismal selection of very unoriginal patterns (flowers, boats, deer? whoopety-doo) and are charging ridiculous prices, from $10-25 per graphic for even the simplest patterns like a circular rope border. Surely there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of non-copyrighted shapes, drawings, devices and carvings in this world that have been catalogued by various institutions (e.g. Egyption heiroglyphs, statues, carvings and stone writings from all over the ancient world, fascinating ancient devices like astrolabes, compasses and sundials, religious icons, all sorts of ancient buildings and monuments, etc.). Where are they? If nothing else are there any sources of hi-res photographs that could conceivably be converted for 3D use?

At least one software package I've seen can create 3D patterns from grayscale images. Are these sorts of graphics out there but only available to businesses who can afford to spend vast amounts of money to acquire them for commercial reproductions? What about all those computer reproductions they show on places like the History Channel, is all that stuff created from scratch or what? How would an individual who wanted to do for instance a reproduction in miniature of ancient Athens get access to the necessary data files to do it?

As a complementary question, if you were tasked with recording physical objects in 3D, how would you go about it, short of an MRI machine or 3D probe? What methods and software are out there for converting 2D images to 3D data? Is there some way to convert (for instance) stereoscopic image pairs into true 3D information? What other methods can be used to create detailed 3D patterns short of recreating objects from scratch with expensive CAD applications?"


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