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How To Beat Online Price Discrimination

Vokkyt Re:Book directly with the airlines (145 comments)

Yeah, this is one I've never really understood. I used to think that you had to use the intermediary sites since when I was younger, my parents either always used agents or third party sites once we got Internet access.

But when someone pointed me to, which just lists flights and prices instead of actually letting you buy, I never went back to the annoying third party sites. I've never really gotten a deal on the third party sites that was any cheaper than just looking up the cost on the informational site and buying the itinerary straight from the airline, nor have the hotel deals been any cheaper or different for me than just booking the hotel independently. I know that my folks like it because it's all of the prep-work done from one site, which is a fair point, but I personally just haven't seen the benefit.


Austin Airport Tracks Cell Phones To Measure Security Line Wait

Vokkyt What privacy concerns? (165 comments)

While this is useful information to have, the privacy implications are a bit unsettling.

As best I can tell from the description, this sounds similar to what Disney and other themeparks use to track their wait times for rides, except the amusement parks occasionally hand out little RFID "things" to guests at the ride entrance and ask the guest to give it to the operator.

As far as I'm aware, any time you're polling for WiFi networks you're broadcasting your MAC; this just seems like a fairly benign way to get information about a process without getting actual data on an individual.

Granted, you can somewhat reliably tie together a MAC addy's travel path if you have the ability to see all the places that MAC has been, but that was true even without this particular software.

So, yeah, what is the concern about this software in particular? It seems like the complaint is more with how the scanning for networks works.

2 days ago

Google Announces Inbox, a New Take On Email Organization

Vokkyt I'm not sure who this is helping (172 comments)

Email users tend to fall into two distinct categories of usage; heavy and "guess I have to use email", and you can trace the distinction almost straight along generation gaps. From my experience, most of the heavy users of email tend to customize systems to what works best for them -- in my work at University IT, the heaviest users usually have very nuanced inboxes with dozed of folders and filters they constructed to suit their needs, disabling any and all auto-sorting for fear of missing an email. Our biggest complaint from users tends to come from the fear that we did something on our Google Apps for Education filter settings which is preventing email from reaching them (even though we run a "virtually" vanilla set up with our Google Apps domain).

The rest of the users just thrive in the chaos of an inbox and either reluctantly use the auto-sorting provided by Gmail or quickly search how to disable it. (The fuss when "Important" messages came into existence was absolutely balloons; users rightfully complained that they had no idea why there was a yellow indicator next to every message in their inbox, since the google filter was marking every message as important). Most people don't really get that much email, at least not the same way that Google seems to think. The inbox search is so good that many users just seem to be content remembering a few key words and then searching for the email when they need it. I constantly see inboxes with thousands of unread messages since the users just ignore any email they don't want to read.

Watching the video and reading the associated blog post, at best it looks like a dedicated app that does what the tabs already do, as well as a few extensions which monitor the contents of email. Some of the features, like the live flight updates, would probably be pretty cool, but I'm curious how well it can interpret itineraries that fly under other airlines for part of the itinerary. (e.g., last international flight I took was on Finnair, and I traveled American Airlines for part of the flight as part of the Oneworld flight alliance; so the actual AA flight was numbered differently than the Finnair listing as I received it, AA#### as opposed to AY###)

I really doubt that this is going to do anything except eat up more space on the Android default home screen as one of the many apps that phones have to ship with, but hopefully a few of the informational features will leak over to Gmail proper.

2 days ago

Facebook To DEA: Stop Using Phony Profiles To Nab Criminals

Vokkyt Re:Lawless land (239 comments)

Except that's not what they're asserting. Law enforcement has been granted powers by the higher powers in the government to occasionally perform actions that would be considered illegal in order to resolve a larger crime. (e.g., impersonation, possession of drugs, possession of illegal firearms, purchasing illegal substances). The DEA's assertion is that this is merely an branch of those granted powers. You might not like that they have been granted the powers to do this, but that doesn't mean that they "...assert that we live in a lawless land where [the DEA] can do what they please." There are pretty strict rules about what it is they can and cannot do when they do these sorts of operations and judges can and often will throw out entire cases if the law enforcement officers mess up during the operation.

Facebook's contention isn't that the DEA can't do this; they openly acknowledge that there is a review of the process in place, and I have no doubt that if tomorrow the DEA released a statement saying "nah, we totally can", then Facebook wouldn't even pursue the angle. Facebook's argument is that such actions really mess with the business model Facebook has; if people have to live in fear that government agents are routinely posing as users to get information, then users are going to migrate away. Not all, but enough to probably hurt Facebook's reputation.

You can argue about what law enforcement should and should not do in the course of an investigation, but there is a long history of precedent which says "hey, this is a-okay", at least the impersonation part. Whether or not the Plaintiff actually "gave consent" as the DEA assumes is a whole different matter, and I suspect their case and all cases from it might get thrown out based on that alone.

3 days ago

JP Morgan Chase Breach: Shades of a Cyber Cold War?

Vokkyt FUD. They don't even know. (96 comments)

From the article:

"But much remains unanswered about the intrusion, including just who the hackers are, which other financial institutions were hit and why the hackers went down a path inside JPMorganâ(TM)s computer system that contained troves of customer information, but not financial data."

They have no motive, no indication of who, or why they did what they did. I agree with posters saying that it's officials throwing out a red herring to get everyone worked up over Russia instead of poor security.

about three weeks ago

New OS X Backdoor Malware Roping Macs Into Botnet

Vokkyt Re: I have seen some malware trying to infect my M (172 comments)

Eh, most probably couldn't. If it's not a trusted developer, by default they cannot install it (a la apt-get or other package managers). They would have to have the known how and awareness to go in and change it to accept all installers, which I don't think many will.

about three weeks ago

Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

Vokkyt Re:Fox News? (460 comments)

The press is much to blame, never checking qualifications or accomplishments when reporting the work of so called 'scientists". Due to that, so much bullshit is promulgated that never comes to fruition, people naturally become skeptical. Promises of fuel cell being ready for mass adoption, promises of medical cures on the way, etc.

It's even worse that that though -- it's not just that the media doesn't fact check, it's that most media members lack the ability to fact check, as do their audience. It's the game telephone on a national scale, and it's hurting everyone when a rather important but nascent study on polymers gets conflated to "scientists create new ultra-capacity battery purple monkey dishwasher".

The report itself doesn't really focus so much on this disconnect though as much as it the social dynamics of credibility; according to the article, we're trained to focus more on "friend or foe" than "true or not true", and the first challenge in communicating serious scientific advances to people is getting past the friend or foe response. The article refers to Climate Change as an example of this, and it seems true that most people cannot enter into discussions of climate change without there being a political agenda attached.

What this really comes down to is poor logical training -- it's not that people are outright illogical or that science and pure logic are the most ideal way to be (as they aren't), it's that we're just wired to have an emotional investment, and too often, the public gets hurt by this wiring. Rather than take a second to try and see if the content is or is not valid, or to separate the person speaking from the evidence presented, which admittedly can be difficult if you are very invested in a particular belief (political, religious, mystical, personal, and so on). I've always used the example of liking Burzum versus liking/approving of Varg Vikernes and his personal beliefs; you don't need to subscribe to the latter to accept the former.

However, the article just suggests that we can't really get past that friend/foe check.

I think this is really where celebrity scientists (Tyson, Nye, Sagan, Asimov, etc) can really help out everyone. I'm re-reading two of Asimov's books "A short history of [chemistry|biology]" and I think that there needs to be more of this. Asimov was an incredible writer and had a knack for telling a good story, and even better just explaining science simply. Sagan has some fairly poetic ways of describing the universe which spoke to people in an easy way, Bill Nye brought a good sense of entertainment to science and made it fun for kids. The more writing and early exposure people can get to this sort of material, the better people can begin to separate the human behind the science from the evidence presented.

(Of course, this is not to say that scientists are without their own prejudices or agendas; reading the history of chemistry has shown how sometimes a leading scientists' personal agenda stymied progress just because they were perceived as an authority. Everyone, regardless of training, is subject to this bias)

about three weeks ago

Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

Vokkyt Re:So then they get another warrant ... (504 comments)

Slightly different scenario. Yahoo had the data and refused to turn it over. Apple is in effect ensuring it can never have the data that the NSA is seeking without new code. Warrants, in this instance, can't really be used to compel you to make something you wouldn't otherwise make. That's not the type of a warrant they can actually seek; there is no "do what we tell you warrant".

Apple's entire gambit is to avoid the messiness of the law aspect by just preventing their own access to the data so they have no means to actually comply with such a request. They can't get in trouble for refusal for such requests anymore than they could get in trouble for being asked have Tim Cook shit out a unicorn.

about a month ago

AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

Vokkyt Re:10 MPS would still leave us behind South Korea (533 comments)

That's kind of irrelevant when US cities can't match Latvian speeds. The major ISPs can claim they can, but what is advertised is quite frankly no where close to day to day usage.

about a month and a half ago

Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

Vokkyt Re:Why? (753 comments)

Technically, they also can just walk around and shoot organ donors to steal organs, but it doesn't really mean they are. There are a lot of nasty things the government could be doing that it isn't.

It's not unreasonable to have a very healthy distrust of government, but in this case GP is right; the current government has historically just been meticulous about their monetary demands. It is more unreasonable to assume that they'd just send out a demand for money with no explanation or reasoning than it is to assume that the GGP is just making up a story to sound cool.

about 3 months ago

5 Years Later, 'Do Not Track' System Ineffective

Vokkyt Re:"A Contract" (254 comments)

If they don't want to offer up the content to those with adblockers or other DNT indicators, then they should just bite the bullet and do so.

It's not that people want their lunch for free, it's that they were provided a lunch without ever discussing the price and then hit with a price some folk didn't want to pay. It doesn't help that the price can often be a lot more than just the annoyance of an advertisement. Drive-by attacked from ads that don't get vetted are still a common reality -- scam websites are still allowed to wantonly display their advertisement and piggy-back off of the legitimacy of websites. You can say caveat emptor for anyone who may follow the ads, but that's really unacceptable; it's getting the user into really awkward, and in some cases dangerous, places when they probably didn't even care enough to really check the content in the first place.

The idea that all content is worth the advertisement cost is flawed -- if paywalled content would stop users from visiting, then it's likely that the content wasn't really worth that much to them. Apathy and laziness are the only thing that takes most people to these sites.

about 5 months ago

Are DVDs Inconvenient On Purpose?

Vokkyt Re:Netflix isn't the cheapest (490 comments)

Interlibrary Loan can get you pretty much everything with similar transit times to Netflix DVD shipping.

about 7 months ago

Bill "The Science Guy" Nye Says Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children

Vokkyt Re:Bill Nye..... I'm not your serf (1774 comments)

Based on the transcript, I don't think that's what Bill Nye is saying here. From the video transcript:

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It's like, it's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

He's not really talking about spiritualism, religion, or any other belief systems; he's talking about a small subset of people bent on eschewing very carefully collected, studied, and reviewed data because they perceive it as an attack on their personal belief system. The Science guy is concerned that bad and irrational decisions are being made under the guise of "its my religion". His purpose is not to decry religion, but to defend science, evolution specifically as it is the target of attacks. I think the thought process is less "don't let religion get into science" and more "think rationally about scientific matters." His plea for "...scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future." and "...people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems" is less about evolution versus religion and more about ensuring that future generations are trained to think logically; to think things through instead of standing on ceremony, that is, actually try to find the best solution, not just one that someone wants.

Does this mean he's against creationism in the classroom? Probably, because it's inconsistent with pretty much every other scientific model out there. But I don't think he's intending to harp on the idea of there being a creator; just people who want to push their agenda at the expense of education

more than 2 years ago

Windows 8 Changes Host File Blocking

Vokkyt Re:Another reason... (1030 comments)

I agree with the first part, but this is about end users, not enterprise managers/users, and it's the silent manner in which it's perform that matters. This is a user instigated change that Windows decides to change without telling the user.

If Defender noted that it was making a change to the hosts file, this would not have exploded to 500+ comments (well, okay maybe there would be enough ms bashing for that), but it would be a different tune altogether.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Best Setup a School Internet Filter?

Vokkyt Re:Don't (454 comments)

Maybe this works differently at lower level education, but a Dean in a university setting alone isn't enough to demand specific access rights that go against the agreed upon policy. For the Universities I've done IT for, typically the technology committee has either the Provost themselves or the assistant to the provost sit in on policy meetings which are finalized by the head of IT, the Provost, and select other special interest members who are involved in policy making. While a Dean could certainly raise enough fuss to have the committee to convene, they alone would not be enough to actually move the committee to action.

(Usually) The stereotypical "loud" administrative person doesn't really have much clout in the real world, especially with legal policy. Ultimately, it comes down the what the lawy say, and if the lawyers fear action, they will almost inevitably side with the perceived safest outcome.

more than 2 years ago

New Version of the MaControl Trojan Spotted In the Wild

Vokkyt PPC Support? They're nicer than Apple (77 comments)


Kaspersky Lab’s researchers analyzed the Mac OS X backdoor and concluded that the malicious application is a new and primarily undetected variant of the MaControl backdoor, which supports both i386 and PowerPC Macs. However, Kaspersky Lab’s system detects the malicious variant as “Backdoor.OSX.MaControl.b.”

more than 2 years ago

Apple Auto-Disables Old Flash Players In Mac OS X 10.7.4

Vokkyt Re:Imagine (155 comments)

Not if you give them a means to install it. As would appear to be the case based on the number of malware infections that people have willingly installed as well as all the crapware that gets put on machines, put a button that says "download" or "install" in front of them and they will do it. Which is exactly what Apple did.

more than 2 years ago

Apple Blocks iOS Apps Using Dropbox SDK

Vokkyt Re:users are instead pushed to Dropbox's website (356 comments)

Apple's position seems to be the upsell for premium storage, not so much the fact that you're taken to the website. A few users on the Dropbox forum discussing the matter even mentioned that they weren't keen on how a lot of services did this. I have to agree with an earlier post that it looks like Dropbox and Apple are already figuring things out. The dev in question is more perturbed than Dropbox seems to be over it.

more than 2 years ago

Mac Flashback Attack Began With Wordpress Blogs

Vokkyt Re:Not really a surprise (103 comments)

I would hope the general response by tech journalists to Mac Malware is an inquisitive one. It's certainly my reaction, since it is still a fairly unique occurrence.

Macs and Malware are an annoying thing to read about because you have to dig through so much Pro/Anti Apple uselessness to figure out even the most basic information about the malware, like "what's it doing?" or "how do I know I'm infected?". I think when I read this on /. initially, it wasn't until ~ the 200th comment that someone posted the F-secure update on the malware which was really informative. The original article was a very brief description of what the malware did and then a doomsday prophecy for OS X.

Obviously, this is anecdotal, but the concerns that the users I support have are less "Pfft, My mac is invulnerable" and more "Does this affect us?". There was so little actual data on the malware that most of my users just heard second-hand from the few vocal anti-Apple folk on our campus about how the OS X sky was falling.

Apple does have some growing to do with security, but I think that the security community and the tech community in general needs to grow up a little when reporting on OS X. I get it -- Apple's old marketing is coming back to bite them in the ass, and it's an embarrassment that makes for a phenomenal opportunity to make fun of Apple. But if you're a security firm breaking a story on malware, you should probably start with just the facts, and leave the jabs to an editorial. As it stands, pretty much any Mac malware has a script:
1. Declare something has been found
2. Provide the known number of infections, strongly suggest it's far greater (without any evidence thereof)
3. Declare this a sign of the end of OS X's innocence
4. Say how OS X has enjoyed a period of invulnerability due to marketshare, and that period is now gone as we expect to see more and more malware infections just like this one.
5. Repost the same story 9 months later when another mild infection occurs, update the story to use the new infection name.

6 million is a decent number of Macs, and it's really frustrating to know that they are being targeted now. So let's change the style of reporting to something actually useful instead of the same rehashed doomsday prophecies OS X has been getting for the last 4 years.

more than 2 years ago


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