The King complex

That’s the reason it’s difficult for many individuals to leave the internet — even for as little as a few hours in the evening, over a weekend, or on vacation. In short, the internet makes us feel like kings. It is the ultimate concierge.

~ Blake Snow

I’ve read a lot about how parts of the Internet are designed to hold your attention, how social media services are designed to beaddicting, and how using “game” theories can get everyone to want to interact more, and how all of that leads to a slippery slope. But this idea — thinking of how the Internet _caters_ to your every whim, and why you then drool all over it to get more of that — this is a new twist I’d not seen before.

Ittoqqortoormiit is not a typo

How does one advance the timezone in one-hour steps on a trans-atlantic cruise?

Yes, this is definitely a “first world problem”, but this took me way WAY too long to figure out. If just one person ever finds this helpful…

Scenario: You want to advance your clock (in my case, an iPad and an iPhone) one hour every day. This happens on a cruise when they want to bump the ship’s time forward several nights in a row. You could, of course, do this in the reverse order when you cruise back home westward. /eyeroll

So you go to the “Date & Time” settings and you quickly realize that you should not just change the time by an hour… that messes everything up. You don’t actually want it to be an hour further in the future, you just want your phone to know the LOCAL display of the time needs to shift. If you change the actual time, all your texts and everything else (think image timestamps) will do a screwy timewarp because your device is still set to some east coast timezone. When you reach land, and touch a cell carrier, and your phone auto-sets the time, and… well, I dunno what would happen.

Next you realize that Apple won’t let you TELL it the time zone. Yo, phone, I’m now in, “GMT -3”, nope, no can do. You cannot select a timezone by name of timezone.

Now you realize you need to know the NAMES of places in timezones you never imagined existed. In fact, timezones which lie in the middle of the Atlantic and which have just one teeny tiny town in the entire WORLD that uses that timezone. You are now searching on instead of enjoying your vacation.

Tada! You now need the information below: So, flip off the “auto-adjust” timezone setting and search for these city names and you’re done. (You can use any start/end city that you want.)

Timezone geekery: The junk after each ‘City, Country’ combination is the number of hours forward from the East coast, and the GMT offset for Standard/Daylight-savings time-of-the-year.

New York, NY (+0, GMT -5/GMT -4)
Hamilton, Bermuda (+1, GMT -4/GMT -3)
Nuuk, Greenland (+2, GMT -3/GMT -2)
Praia, Cape Verde (+3, GMT -2/GMT -1)
Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland (+4,  GMT -1/GMT +0)
Algiers, Algeria (+5, GMT +0/GMT +1)
Barcelona, Spain (+6, GMT +1/GMT +2)

Conspiracy theories on facebook

Do you believe that the contrails left by high-flying aircraft contain sildenafil citratum, the active ingredient in Viagra? Or that light bulbs made from uranium and plutonium are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly? Or that lemons have anti-hypnotic benefits?

If you do, then you are probably a regular consumer of conspiracy theories, particularly those that appear on the Italian language version of Facebook (where all these were sourced). It is easy to dismiss conspiracy theories as background noise with little if any consequences in the real world.

~ Alessandro Bessi et al, from Science Vs Conspiracy: Collective Narratives In The Age Of (Mis)Information

It remembers for keeps

Anyone who works with computers learns to fear their capacity to forget. Like so many things with computers, memory is strictly binary. There is either perfect recall or total oblivion, with nothing in between. It doesn’t matter how important or trivial the information is. The computer can forget anything in an instant. If it remembers, it remembers for keeps.

~ Maciej Cegłowski, from his talk at Beyond Tellerrand

Programming sucks

Every friend I have with a job that involves picking up something heavier than a laptop more than twice a week eventually finds a way to slip something like this into conversation: “Bro,1 you don’t work hard. I just worked a 4700-hour week digging a tunnel under Mordor with a screwdriver.”

System administration sucks too:

… And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don’t even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn’t make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

~ Peter Welch, from Programming Sucks


Take back the Internet

This is not the Internet the world needs, or the Internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.

But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can — and should — do.

~ Bruce Schneir, from Take Back the Internet

I’d venture that the vast majority of regular, everyday people working in technology related jobs are not actively trying to do evil. People go to work, make the best decisions they can and then go home. If that’s true, then it’s going to be nigh impossible to change the momentum of how things (e.g., NSA surveillance) are going. Because in order for it to change, we need to start thinking bigger.

Heartbleed: For want of one nail, the kingdom is lost

The Heartbleed OpenSSL problem is big news ( if you’ve been under a rock ). What’s wrong?

In short, Heartbeat allows one endpoint to go “I’m sending you some data, echo it back to me”. It supports up to 64 KiB. You send both a length figure and the data itself. Unfortunately, if you use the length figure to claim “I’m sending 64 KiB of data” (for example) and then only actually send, say, one byte, OpenSSL would send you back your one byte — plus 64 KiB minus one byte of other data from RAM.


~ Matt Nordhoff, from How Exactly Does the OpenSSL TLS Heartbeat (Heartbleed) Exploit Work?

So this one, tiny-looking problem brings our entire sand-castle Internet kingdom down. “Secure” web sites turn out aren’t necessarily secure. Worse, they haven’t been secure for some uncertain amount of time. So, anything communicated insecurely, during some uncertain time-frame… is, uh, possibly snooped, stolen, etc. The system admins have to patch the fix in, then redo site certificates, then everything everyone has put to/from those sites, (your login and password for example!) has to all be considered stolen/tainted and has to be reentered.

Bonus: it’s even worse than I’m making it sound: Try this on…