Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

i’ve moved

January 3, 2015

I no longer post here. I’ve now moved to Diaspora.

Snowden and Zimmerman: familiar stories?

July 7, 2013

About 20 years ago, American cryptographer Philip Zimmerman needed lawyers to defend himself against his government. He was distributing encryption software to the public. Bush Sr. law enforcement and intelligence officials saw his cryptography software (“PGP“) as a weapon (a “munition”) to be possessed only by the state and used against its enemies. If the government didn’t have this secret weapon, it was argued, then they’ve lost a valuable military advantage. What they didn’t understand however, is that encryption (though used for military purposes) was a shield, not a weapon.

Zimmerman claimed that tools for encryption, if kept from the public, would make it too easy to operate surveillance programs on citizens’ digital communications and therefore, put their 4th Amendment rights in jeopardy. He worried corrupt government officials might use the citizens’ lack of protection to spy on them even if they hadn’t done anything wrong. Similar to how some US politicians have attempted to justify the secret existence of PRISM, it was argued that laws around encryption needed to strike a “balance” between citizens’ privacy and national security. They said the public must be kept in the dark regarding encryption or the nation faced a security risk.

If we fast forward to the present, it’s easy to see (in retrospect) that the vilification of Zimmerman was harsh and unfair. More than twenty years later, we see that knowledge of encryption technology has provided the world’s masses with ways to securely do e-commerce and shield communication between those protecting human rights and attempting to avoid detection by brutal regimes. Today, few seem eager to cast stones at Zimmerman though in 1991, he was a very polarizing figure.

The recent behavior of Edward Snowden has led to a polarizing debate within the United States. Some label him as a “traitor” who is aiding enemies and putting America at risk (despite the lack of evidence). Others claim he’s a “hero” by revealing secret technical operations that the public deserves to know. After all, they’re the ones being monitored and recorded. I’m curious how Snowden will be characterized twenty years from now, long after the current and most recent US officials are gone.

Big Polluter cover-up

April 22, 2012

Greg Palast with some great coverage:

Part One

Part Two

Perhaps major oil corporations should be nationalized and all abnormal profits spent on subsidizing sustainable energy alternatives. This would help force the oil industry into major downsizing. Some of the subsidization could be spent countering the structural unemployment that would come as a result.

unhappy halloween

March 27, 2012

It’s like the Halloween Documents, but by homophobes. They want to embrace and extend the “Latino vote” in order to extinguish gay marriage. And “the blacks”? Well, they’re NOM’s SCO.

Santorum on abortion: a consistent but puzzling position

January 25, 2012

Rick Santorum on abortion in the case of rape:

I respect the consistency of this position (“in every case”) though I disagree with its underlying premise. What I don’t understand is how anyone believing abortion is killing an innocent person can claim, in good conscience, that it’s OK if the embryo/fetus exists as a result of rape. It’s not OK to kill another person to make someone else’s bad situation marginally better.

While I’d agree with Santorum that a human life is present after conception, I disagree with Santorum’s premise that “a human life is the same as a person“. An embryo lacks the experience of complex mental activity to be considered a person. Human life that has only existed in body isn’t precious. Claiming otherwise is puzzling and I don’t see an inherent right to life for that human being. For this reason, there’s nothing unethical in a pregnant woman choosing to abort. Therefore, I support the right of women to choose and the right of doctors to help her carry out that choice safely.

Note also that Santorum slips up when he says his position “is not a matter of religious values” yet later argues that women should, “accept what God has given“. It is likely that Santorum really means “soul” but uses the term “person” to appear more secular in this matter.

“public” social networking (an observation)

January 9, 2012

Before clicking on the links below, be sure to log out of both Diaspora and Facebook.

A “Public” post through

A “Public” post through

fear of death

November 19, 2011

I fear death in that I fear deep sadness for the few who are very close to me and the possibility of physical suffering before the light goes out. The good news is, I think the few who love me dearly will be able to get on with fulfilling and happy lives. And, my pain is at least temporary. Admittedly though, the thought of suffering physical pain (either excruciatingly and/or continually) still freaks me out. I guess I don’t fear “losing” anything since I can’t imagine that an afterlife capable of such reflection is anything but a fantasy.

networking as matryoshka encapsulation

October 29, 2011

I’m taking a course on the basics of open networks and my tutor Koos Baas used a great letter/envelope analogy to describe the addition/removal of PDU PCI headers as data moves down and up the stack. I wondered what other analogies might work to describe a user sending a message to another. I remembered the doll I had and took a snapshot:

The smallest doll could be thought of as the data from the sender’s application. The largest doll could be thought of as a frame, just before being turned into bits for the physical layer. Shortly thereafter, the unpacking begins until the recipient gets the smallest doll at their application layer.

To my sister Lesley who gave me this gift I say, spasiba!

zinn zen

October 14, 2011

There are all sorts of lies and euphemisms employed in an attempt to counter this:

Source unknown to me. Please let me know if you know.(Image source unknown. If you know, please inform me and I’ll attribute.)

“Unfortunate but necessary” is one twisted take. “Collateral” is a weapon that has been used by those who push the buttons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against another who, when backed into a corner, becomes a vicious animal…that would be hypocritical of me. But throwing a stranger under the bus (!?) … that’s neither natural nor justified. Only the insane or duped claim otherwise.

the problems with “cloud computing”

May 3, 2011

I’ve been discussing the issues around “cloud computing” in a class I’m taking. I think it is important to distinguish between using another’s technology as a storage unit for your information and using another’s technology to transform/crunch your information.

The implication of using X’s storage is that your data can be read by X unless you encrypt your data before sending it. If you use X’s application, you may get dubious results in your data. If X’s application is the only instance where your data can be read (as intended), then that can be extremely careless (as some might say) and therefore, potentially dangerous.

I see “cloud” storage as a solvable problem, but see many instances where “cloud computing” is truly careless computing.