Entries Tagged as 'Government'

Treasury bailout the wrong solution

“肉包子打狗”. Literally, it means that using a meat bun to hit a dog.
So what does this Chinese proverb really mean? It means that when you have a problem (in this case like a mean dog), then you really shouldn’t use the wrong solution (using a meat bun which would have the opposite effect that it intended to have).
In the same situation, spending $700 billion USD taxpayer money is crazy talk. We’re not even talking about helping gain back lost jobs to overseas or actual economic impact. No, this money would be earmarked for bailing out the investment banks that made horrible decisions in sub-prime mortgages that were not regulated properly. All in all, the entire thing sounds greasy to me.
It’s funny that they want to push it through like it’s going to do something. What if the American public doesn’t want to spend $700 billion USD? Whatever happened to the tax-free money that was sent back to the public that was supposed to “bolster the economy?”
It’s interesting but it seems that we’re not all crazy about this. Apparently there are already protests forming in how this money is used.
Congress is now trying to do a “bi-partisan” plan. Sounds like it’s still going to cost us, the taxpayers, money for paying for people that can’t read the fine print. Still not good enough since we shouldn’t have to pay for corporate mistakes. Everyone has their own pains to deal with already day-to-day. As for me? I’m totally against the “meat bun”. Give me a big stick any day.
Photo Credit: (metalhead)

TSA has a new red button

tsa_logo.gif …At least I think it’s new. Never encountered this yet at any airport until yesterday. And I wasn’t about to get delayed home for taking a picture so I’ll just describe it.
After stepping through the metal detector, the TSA personnel asks you to push a red button. I asked, which red button since there was this thing covered up in mesh or something and I assumed I had to push right in the middle. The TSA guy pointed to the red button to the side. Interestingly enough, I push the button and I was done.
The button itself wasn’t a biometric sensor as far as I could tell, just a standard red button. But the covered up ‘mesh/tape or whatever it was’ area was more interesting. As I was putting on my shoes, I looked back and noticed that the device was tied to a laptop. If the person pushes the red button, and it flashes green, then they’re good. If it flashes red, then they have to go through more screening.
Which made me wonder. Was that middle area a camera? And if so, is TSA using facial recognition software? That would mean that there’s a database somewhere that it’s being tied into but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I’ve never seen this before and found it quite interesting considering I travel enough on business to have seen all the fun security things including the shoe air puffer. The entire thing could be much more simple, but I’m just curious as to if anyone knows what that was and what it does since it was only in a smaller airport where I saw it.
Definitely something that captures your attention when it’s change out of the usual security travel habits of “take off shoes, take out laptop, put in bin, put stuff on conveyor, walk through detector, grab stuff off conveyor, move along.”

G8 governments setting up scare tactics for piracy

The latest thing that the G8 conference talked about was anti-piracy measures. And apparently they want to enact the international agreement that would give the right to inspect all portable devices such as music players, phones, or laptops for illegal downloads.
While this is more likely to be about customs officials actually being able to intercept shipments of counterfeit goods (of which they already can as far as I know), there is an eerie feeling that there will be some overzealous screener that will take into their own hands a misinterpretation of this agreement.
Here’s the deal. The chance of actually having a scan of your device is probably fairly unlikely due to the fact that there is no way to actually prove ownership. On top of that, it would increase the times at customs checkpoints by ten-fold. I don’t think there are many people that don’t bring music players for transpacific or transatlantic trips anymore.
In regards to the burden of proof, I give you this example; many people rip their entire music library on CD and legal downloads to their portable music device. I personally have over 4000+ songs (all legit) and I know people that have more. How customs will be able to prove that is beyond me if I’m going in and out of the country. If there is a misinterpretation of this however, the more likely thing would be confiscation. And you know that will face the wrath of at the very least business people that go on flights if not the citizens of G8 countries. Without very strict rules on how the procedures are and what is and isn’t allowed, the only thing we can hope for is that this doesn’t happen.
Photo Credit: (Will Lion)

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2008 Olympics website caught plagiarizing Flash game

olympics2008site.jpg
This is really bad news for Beijing. I mean, with the 2008 Olympics coming up, they have been tightening the hatches and building and maintaining multiple billion dollar projects just to show the world that they’re on the up and coming. With the amount of money they’ve spent on the buildings and such, it’s an amazing thing that they had basically plagiarized a Flash game from The Pencil Farm.
Apparently, some impatient web developer for the Olympics had downloaded the swf file, decompiled it and inserted the Olympic characters and such in place of the others, and replaced the words. What’s even more interesting is that the original author, did the same with the one from the Olympics, and found some files of his still intact within the swf.
Obviously, the Internet community has turned up the heat on this issue. Should be interesting as to how Beijing responds to this since they don’t want any trouble to befall the Olympics and this could become pretty ugly with how fast the Internet mobilizes.
Definitely something to pay attention to since The Pencil Farm should in fact get compensation for use of their game in the Beijing Olympics. And I’d imagine in an event as large as this, it should be pretty great compensation since it’s no different than if a company plagiarized an indie designers product and then displayed it as an television advertisement during the Super Bowl.

How patent lawsuits create need for patent oversight

Growing up, I got to hear about patents a lot. Heck, dad has had his name on a fair share of them and I’ve seen the plaques to prove it.
At the time, patents were used in such a way to protect your intellectual property from other corporations from stealing your ideas and creating knock-offs. There are pretty specific laws on what you can do, once a patent is handed out and how things such as reverse engineering is limited to a certain percentage that can be very similar and so on, so forth.
These days though? You just see what I deem as frivolous lawsuits that are spent basically on the basis of trying to reach into the pockets of larger corporations. In fact, there are corporations out there, that their whole business is based on filing patents and then suing. Sounds pretty unethical to me, and you would imagine that the Patent Office wouldn’t hand out such patents.
There are certain things that can or cannot be done in a certain fashion, but trying to sue a larger corporation or FUD a smaller one is just… well, pansy. Maybe it’s just me.
But it sounds like there needs to be patent oversight. It wasn’t long ago that I remember reading about someone that had set up a patent for the warp drive. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but if it was? That’s just ridiculous.
This is truly a time where if the government was supported to do anything with the Patent Office, it would tighten the reins. No more just handling out patents because people pay the money for the application. A lot of these things need to be contested. And if people start lawsuits that are proven to be just stretching the boundaries of the law just to make money from the lawsuit instead of actual protecting intellectual or actual tangible property, then there should be black marks set against those individuals or corporations. Maybe it’s just my opinion, but the world doesn’t need more stupid things going on that hurts technological innovation. It needs less.
And in my opinion, without more oversight on how patents are handed out and how they are used, it devalues the point of a patent altogether. At least in my eyes.
Photo Credit: (niallkennedy)

New passport photo procedures are strange

Recently, I had just renewed my passport. Yes, it’s been that long since my last one. In fact, I even received the new RFID one which brings along a whole slew of other matters that I’ll have to deal with in protecting myself as an American citizen when traveling abroad. But that’s another opinion for another day.
But this part is really strange. We’re still using the old procedures of sending in a photo for renewals and new passports, BUT if you read the instructions. Those photos have to be able to withstand certain types of temperatures. The reason for this is because the old passports basically laminated the photo directly onto the passport.
The new ones however seem to be a scanned image. At least without taking apart my passport and not having the duplicate picture, it sure seems that way. The resolution of the picture has been downgraded for sure. Which makes me wonder why we have to have photos that can take temperature differences anymore? Why can’t you use photo paper or anything that an amateur photographer uses these days? Or just plain inkjet paper if it indeed is a scan. It’s not like the people at Walgreen’s that took my photo actually signs off on an “official” photograph.
Definitely one of those interesting questions that I probably will never find the answer.

NSA have a master key to backdoor in NIST standard?

It’s sort of suspicious when the NSA champions any standards.
But when independent researchers found that the random number generation by the DUAL_EC_ERBG needed a fix set of numbers to generate the elliptic curve that in turn generates the random number? It became very intriguing on if this was not only a weakness but a backdoor.
Basic idea? Anyone that owns this set of master key numbers can take anything generated by this algorithm and decode it. From a cryptography standpoint, this is a big no-no, and screams of strangeness.
Am I surprised if the NSA holds the master key? Not at all. After the hoopla from the recent domestic spying incidence with the whistleblower, it’s really shouldn’t be. But there are some things that you just have to be a little more coy about if you’re going to hold the keys to the castle (assuming they do). Either way, you can view it in two fashions. One is that the NSA is doing their jobs and keeping track of information that could potentially protect our state of government if they do indeed hold the cards. The other is that, it’s good that independent researchers found this flaw in the algorithm since it would have been exploited somewhere else down the line if it wasn’t an actual NSA backdoor.

How the Democrats are just as scary with domestic spying

democrat.png You thought it was all the Republicans, didn’t you? All the domestic spying? Alas, Democrats are way on board with this one too. House Democrats are proposing to have it permanently put in place as long as there is oversight.
Don’t get me wrong. This bill is way better than the so-called temporary action where telecommunication companies are given immunity to spying domestically, and there’s a whole bunch of other types of anti-privacy acts that would make privacy activists mutter unholy things. But the whole permanent part of it? That’s no so cool.
As a citizen of what is supposed to be the “land of the free”, I don’t expect people to be looking over my shoulder for whatever reason, even if there is oversight. To tell you the truth, the oversight part is really part of the issue that makes it bad. Everyone knows that governmental oversight is less than spectacular. Even my favorite agency, GAO, has no power over what they tell other agencies to do when other agencies fail to meet government set standards.
If there was more of something like an Inspector General or independent oversight, then I would feel a little bit better about it. Someone with enough umph to actually make sure that people’s rights’ were not violated and that it wasn’t free reign to go snoop in citizens’ things when there wasn’t a good reason to do so.
Just goes to show that when it comes to wording of things, generics could really hurt Americans in the long run because of legalese. We must be careful and not look at politicians as Republicans and Democrats, since they are all politicians, and politicians at the federal level have a sneaky way of fighting for special interest groups more so than the constituents they represent.

Head of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn’t know how to install carseat

NHTSA.jpg Scary. Another head of a governmental agency doesn’t know something about the exact thing that your agency is known to police. I had previously written about the head of the Copyright Office being a DMCA supporter but not owning a computer. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These are some seriously frightening things in my opinion.
Nicole Nasson, the head of the NHTSA, didn’t know how to install a child’s carseat and took a three day course on it. What’s interesting here is that Nasson’s background isn’t even in safety. Far from it. It looks like most of her expertise has been in congressional affairs, and governmental affairs. Also sports a JD (surprise surprise).
This just goes to show that if those that are running the regulations don’t even know how to do things that their agencies are regulating, then how are regular citizens supposed to feel safe and comforted by the knowledge that the “people that are supposed to know” don’t? On a similar parallel, this also falls straight in line with what I’ve been saying for years. Senior management of corporations need to know something about the products they make instead of thinking it’s just a “management” thing. Numbers might be numbers, but if you want to build trust with the consumer, you have to actually know what you’re talking about instead of coming out of left field. Consumers and citizens alike can smell that BS a mile away.
Frightens me anyways.