Friday, May 11, 2012

Why would elevators or boilers be connected to the Internet?
"Imagine what would happen if an attacker broke into the network for the industrial control systems for New York City's elevators and boiler systems and decided to disrupt them, imperiling the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents relying on them. Think it could never happen? Think again. 'You could increase the speed of how elevators go up or down,' says Steve Ramirez, business analyst, analysis and communications in the Office of the CIO of the New York City Housing Authority, which provides public housing for low- to moderate-income families in the five boroughs of the city. And if attackers ever successfully penetrated the network-based industrial control systems for the boilers, they could raise the heat levels for municipal boilers, causing them to explode."

Paranoia or do they know something we don't? How will they determine I have an iPhone in the package I'm mailing? Are they saying any iPad may suddenly burst into flame because Apple didn't properly install the battery?
USPS to ban overseas shipments on tablets, smartphones, more
As of next week, the United States Postal Service, or USPS, is banning all international shipments containing lithium ion batteries, which many electronics have (see the full list below).
The most likely reason for the ban is that if lithium ion batteries are fully charged or not correctly stored or packed, they can catch fire or combust -- something obviously best to avoid while shipping.
… The USPS says it may change the ban on January 1, 2013 and allow customers to mail certain quantities of lithium ion batteries internationally, including to APO and FPO locations, "when the batteries are properly installed in the personal electronic devices they are intended to operate."

We have become a nation of corporate sheep. Profit over principle.
Few Companies Fight Patriot Act Gag Orders, FBI Admits
Since the Patriot Act broadly expanded the power of the government to issue National Security Letters demanding customer records, more than 200,000 have been issued to U.S. companies by the FBI. But the perpetual gag orders that accompany them are rarely challenged by the ISPs and other recipients served with such letters.
Just how rare these challenges are became more evident following the recent release of a 2010 letter from the Justice Department to a federal lawmaker.
In December 2010 in a letter (.pdf) from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the FBI asserted that in February 2009 it began telling recipients they had a right to challenge the built-in gag order that prevents them from disclosing to anyone, including customers, that the government is seeking customer records. That policy was mandated by a 2008 appellate court decision, which found that the never-ending, hard-to-challenge gag order was unconstitutional.
Holder noted, however, that in the year and 10 months since the FBI started notifying recipients of this right, only a small handful had asserted that right.
Thus far, there have been only four challenges to the non-disclosure requirement,” Holder wrote, “and in two of the challenges, the FBI permitted the recipient to disclose the fact that an NSL was received.” [“the FBI permitted” 'cause a judge would have tossed the whole request? Bob]

(Related) Apparently someone told the Senator what was happening right under his nose.
Senator seeks DOJ cellphone tracking data
May 11, 2012 by Dissent
John Ribeiro reports:
U.S. Senator Al Franken has in a letter asked the Department of Justice for information on its practices in requesting location information from wireless carriers, following reports that law enforcement agencies are requesting such information sometimes without warrants.
Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said he was concerned about reports that after a Supreme Court decision on tracking using GPS devices, state and local law enforcement agencies may be requesting the location records of individuals directly from their wireless carriers instead of tracking individuals through GPS devices installed on vehicles, according to a copy of the letter on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Read more on Computerworld.

Cute, catchy name, but in the end a call for more government workers?
May 09, 2012
Insourcing Functions Performed by Federal Contractors: An Overview of the Legal Issues
CRS: Insourcing Functions Performed by Federal Contractors: An Overview of the Legal Issues - Kate M. Manuel, Legislative Attorney; Jack Maskell, Legislative Attorney, May 7, 2012
  • "Recent Congresses and the Obama Administration have taken numerous actions to promote “insourcing,” or the use of government personnel to perform functions that contractors have performed on behalf of federal agencies. Among other things, the 109th through the 111th Congresses enacted several statutes requiring the development of policies and guidelines to ensure that agencies “consider” using government employees to perform functions previously performed by contractors, as well as any new functions. These statutes require that “special consideration” be given to using government personnel to perform those functions (1) recently performed by government employees, (2) closely associated with the performance of inherently governmental functions, (3) performed pursuant to a contract awarded on a non-competitive basis, or (4) performed poorly by a contractor because of excessive costs or inferior quality. The Obama Administration has similarly promoted insourcing. For example, in February 2010, the Secretary of the Army testified that the Army intended to insource 7,162 positions in FY2010 and 11,084 positions in FY2011 through FY2015. Although the Department of Defense (DOD) subsequently abandoned such insourcing initiatives because the initiatives did not result in significant savings, several contractors filed suit alleging that DOD failed to comply with the applicable guidelines when insourcing particular functions."

Free is good...
5 Reasons to Download Autodesk Inventor Fusion Now
… The product is currently in a “Technical Preview,” which means you can download it for free until the end of the year.
… One warning, CAD programs take hundreds, if not thousands of hours to become expert on. I’ve been using a competitive product, Solidworks, for years, so I understood the basics going in. If you are coming to this with little experience, brace for frustration. It takes time to learn, but the payoff is enormous.

Of course, as a true conspiracy theorist I know this looks like something the government would fake (the timing is just too convenient) to reduce panic as the end nears. I would be certain of somehow Al Gore was involved...
End of the World Averted: New Archeological Find Proves Mayan Calendar Doesn’t End
So much for the world ending on December 21, 2012. We’ve been saying it for years, but a new find by archaeologists confirms the Mayan calendar indeed does not end this year but keeps going, just like turning a page to a new calendar.
“It’s very clear that the 2012 date, while important as Baktun 13, was turning the page,” David Stuart, quoted by Alan Boyle on MSNBC’s Cosmic Log. “Baktun 14 was going to be coming, and Baktun 15 and Baktun 16. … The Maya calendar is going to keep going, and keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future.”

One tool of future education.
"Univ. of MN is cataloging open-access textbooks and enticing faculty to review the texts by offering $500 per review. From the article: 'The project is meant to address two faculty critiques of open-source texts: they are hard to locate and they are of indeterminate quality. By building up a peer-reviewed collection of textbooks, available to instructors anywhere, Minnesota officials hope to provide some of the same quality control that historically has come from publishers of traditional textbooks.'"

No comments: