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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Should all locks have keys? Phones, Castles, Encryption, and You.

It has been a very long time since I've posted anything to the blog, I guess once you get out of the habit it's really tough to get back to it. However this is one of those times where I felt particularly compelled to share something. "Grey" over at http://www.cgpgrey.com/ has put together a great video discussing the difference between physical and digital locks... or encryption. It's 5 minutes worthy of your attention. There is a difference between the rules that govern our physical properties and those that govern our digital ones, or at least there had been. A debate is on, most notably in the U.S., that has some law makers asking for the golden key to your, and everybody else's data. in nearly all cases.
 
The proposed Burr-Feinstein Encryption Bill requires that all companies providing any kind communications or data service be able to give information to the government in an ''intelligible format.'' If the company made the data unintelligible, it must provide ''technical assistance'' to undo it. In case there is any question about the aim, the bill defines intelligible as ''decrypted, deciphered, decoded, demodulated, or deobfuscated to its original form.'' 

Being a Canadian citizen I was appalled to learn, but not really surprised, of the recent disclosure in a Quebec court case that the RCMP had Blackberry's global encryption key since 2010 giving them access to all communications between consumer Blackberry devices. The RCMP have effectively implemented a "man in the middle" attack, with Blackberry's consent, on all non Government or Enterprise Blackberry communication and fought hard to keep this information from becoming public.

Blackberry Executive Chairman and CEO John Chen responded with this blog post full of vague catch phrases like "do what is right for the citizenry" and "comply with reasonable lawful access requests". To this I ask is it reasonable to provide access to the communications of millions of users to target the communications of a few? Who makes Blackberry or it's CEO the arbiter of what is "right for the citizenry"?

If you haven't already you should assume that your communications are accessible unless you've taken care, beyond what you are told by your service provider, in protecting it. Governments globally are using the naivety of the general public and scaremongering tactics to influence our acceptance of their excessive use of powers and are seeking the power to circumvent our security in the name of what is "right for the citizenry". One of the few methods of ensuring some measure of privacy is encryption and granting Governments the keys to this kingdom is extremely dangerous.   




Please also have a quick read of this Electronic Frontier Foundation document on "the crypto wars".



Thursday, November 20, 2014

The 5 Best Things About Android 5.0 Lollipop on Nexus 5

A little background info:

In February my last Nexus device gave up, it was under contract with Rogers with nearly a year remaining so I decided to pick up a Nexus 5 from the Play store in order to have the freedom to move to another carrier if I so choose. I love the Nexus 5, it's every bit the phone that I came to expect from the official line of Google phones.

From the original un-boxing battery life has been good, for my usage, but not great. I purchased the Nexus Wireless Charger with the device, because it was the micro USB port on the old Nexus that gave way, and because I fully expected to be charging the device on a daily basis.

I have to say that I've been blown away with the battery performance I now get with the Nexus 5 and the new Android Lollipop, so much so that I've come out of a 2 year blogging hiatus to let you know about it.

While I'm at it, I might as well let you know some of the other things I'm liking about Lollipop. So here is my top 5:


  1. Battery usage. We've already established this. While I do not have scientific data to back my claim I can assure you that it is greatly improved. A typical day on my smart phone includes texting, emails, twitter, and a Google search or two. I use Google Now to catch up on tech news and sports scores. I use Google Fit. GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth are generally enabled. With Kit-Kat I would typically leave the house with a full charge and return it to the Wireless Charger when I arrived at home or at least when I headed off to bed. I would get roughly 18 hours worth of use, that's about all that I was comfortable with as it seemed like the top half of the tank lasted much longer than the bottom half. Probably just me, but that's how it appeared. I just set my Nexus on the charger after 36 hours with 20% battery remaining. Android does a great job of tracking which app or service is using battery and also graphs usage over it's current cycle.
  2. Performance. Again no scientific evidence but the apps I use, even 3rd party apps, are quicker to launch and more responsive. Feels like it's fresh out of the box.
  3. Smart notifications. Beyond the flashing LED, Lollipop now allows you to view messages on the login screen before unlocking the device. This means that you can tell if there is a text message or an email just by hitting the power button. I've set mine so that no detailed information is displayed, which is also a nice feature.
  4.  Guest Mode. Now you can put your device in "guest mode" which allows you to hand it over to someone and lock down what they can do. Let's say someone asks to make a call, change the user to Guest and they'll not be able to access email, texts, photos, etc. They get access to the phone function and some apps but all of your data is secured to your account.
  5. Multitasking. While previous versions of Android allowed you to view all open apps, Lollipop's scrolling cards makes it much easier to jump between applications. At first I thought this was just eye candy, pun intended, but the more I use it the more I realize that it truly just works better.
I've only just begun to explore Lollipop so I may find other features to love, or hate, I'll be sure to post my thoughts again once I've used it for a while.

Please comment if you have your own favourite features or helpful tips to share.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

John McAfee's life on the run

If you have not been following the saga of John McAfee, of McAfee Antivirus fame, here are some conversations that he's had with Wired writer Joshua Davis with whom he's been speaking to for months. On the lamb hiding from the Police in Belise, wanted for questioning in the murder investigation of a neighbour and accused of trafficking of drugs. It's an interesting tale of intrigue. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Google's Bacon Number

Check this out.

Google's search engine will provide you with a celebrity's degree of separation from Kevin Bacon.

For example:

Type: "William Shatner bacon number" (quotes not necessary) into google and it returns:


William Shatner's Bacon number is 2

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Google's Death Benefits

Google is famous around the tech world, and beyond, for the many perks that it offers it's employees. Free meals, haircuts, bikes on campus, etc. but did you know that Google also offers death benefits? Not the kind that you get through your paid group insurance policy...

According to Forbes writer Meghan Casserly "Should a Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade." in addition any surviving child receives a monthly allowance of $1000 until their 19th birthday or their 23rd birthday if they are a fulltime student.

Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock says “But it turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.”

I completely understand that we should not expect such benefits from all companies, yet there is a lot of room out there for doing things because "...it's the right thing to do." I feel extremely fortunate to be working for a company that also thinks along these lines, while we are 1000th the size of Google, we are very much a family.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Askew

Here's one to get your Monday off to a good start... google the word "Askew". Can't take credit for finding this, it's making the rounds on plus.google.com

If you like that one be sure to also google "where is chuck norris" and click on the first item in the results list.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Great Blue Heron Nestcam

Here is a rare live look into the nest of a Great Blue Heron as provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology live webcam. So far 4 of 5 eggs have hatched and viewers have witnessed the family fend off great horned owls on multiple attacks of the nest. 



Watch live streaming video from cornellherons at livestream.com



Here's the hatching of no. 3 as shared on Youtube:





The only thing more fun than technology is nature.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wrap Your Mind Around This 1 Percent Scenario

Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson leaves us with something to ponder about Earth and it's relevance in the grand scheme of things...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Robot Prison Guard Undergoes Trials in South Korea

Equipped with 3D cameras and behavioral recognition software, a robotic prison guard is undergoing field trials in South Korea. The robot is autonomous but can also yield control to an operator via an iPad application. The purpose is not to physically interact with the inmates but rather observe and report, for now. It's no robocop, more like a pimped out roomba, but I think it's an interesting use of technology none the less. 

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