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Interesting Links: Jan 26, 2016

January 26, 2016 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the ongoing giant and potentially catastrophic clusterfuck called the “Internet of Things”.

Link 1: “Internet of Things” security is hilariously broken and getting worse

Shodan, a search engine for the Internet of Things (IoT), recently launched a new section that lets users easily browse vulnerable webcams. The feed includes images of marijuana plantations, back rooms of banks, children, kitchens, living rooms, garages, front gardens, back gardens, ski slopes, swimming pools, colleges and schools, laboratories, and cash register cameras in retail stores, according to Dan Tentler, a security researcher who has spent several years investigating webcam security. “It’s all over the place,” he told Ars Technica UK. “Practically everything you can think of.”

When Mudge announced his plan to form CITL back in June, security researcher Rob Graham went so far as to call the plan a “dumb idea”: It’s not the same quality problem. UL is about accidental failures in electronics. CyberUL would be about intentional attacks against software. These are unrelated issues. Stopping accidental failures is a solved problem in many fields. Stopping attacks is something nobody has solved in any field. In other words, the UL model of accidents is totally unrelated to the cyber problem of attacks. Graham affirmed his critique in a Twitter direct message to Ars. “UL doesn’t test systems for somebody deliberately trying to attack them,” he wrote. He also argued that CITL “adds a lot of bureaucracy for little value.” Mitigating risk is not the same as eliminating it. But until someone figures out to deal with deliberate attacks, the problem of insecure IoT devices looks set to get worse before it gets better.

Link 2: Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold

The Nest Learning Thermostat is dead to me, literally. Last week, my once-beloved “smart” thermostat suffered from a mysterious software bug that drained its battery and sent our home into a chill in the middle of the night. Although I had set the thermostat to 70 degrees overnight, my wife and I were woken by a crying baby at 4 a.m. The thermometer in his room read 64 degrees, and the Nest was off. This didn’t happen to just me. The problems with the much-hyped thermostat, which allows users to monitor and adjust their thermostats on their smartphones (Google purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in 2014), affected an untold number of customers when the device went haywire across America. Users vented on the company’s online forums and on social media. The glitch also coincided with plunging temperatures throughout much of the country.

But this isn’t just about the Nest. This points to a larger problem with so-called smart devices that we are inviting into our lives: Small glitches can cause huge problems. We’ve seen this before, with wireless fobs for keyless cars. They are supposed to make life easier by letting us do away with car keys, but they also make it easier for thieves to break in (by using a simple radio amplifier). It also happened recently with Fitbit, the maker of wearable activity trackers. The company was hit with a class-action lawsuit in San Francisco asserting that the wristbands failed to “consistently and accurately record wearers’ heart rates,” which is vital for those with certain medical conditions.

I’ve heard dozens of other stories from people with connected homes who were locked out by malfunctioning door touch pads, or about newfangled security alarms going off in the middle of the night because a bug (one with wings, not a digital one) flew by. Making matters worse is the lack of recourse. Buried deep in Nest’s 8,000-word service agreement is a section called “Disputes and Arbitration,” which prohibits customers from suing the company or joining a class-action suit. Instead, disputes are settled through arbitration. As a 2015 investigative series in The New York Times illustrated, the use of arbitration clauses is becoming widespread. Nest’s terms of service “are inherently unfair to consumers,” said Sonia K. Gill, a lawyer for civil justice and consumer protection at Public Citizen, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The terms, she said, limit damages and specify that customers need to travel to San Francisco for arbitration. “Who can afford that?” she said.

Link 3: Police body cams found pre-installed with notorious Conficker worm

One of the world’s most prolific computer worms has been found infecting several police body cameras that were sent to security researchers, the researchers reported. According to a blog post published last week by security firm iPower, multiple police cams manufactured by Martel Electronics came pre-installed with Win32/Conficker.B!inf. When one such camera was attached to a computer in the iPower lab, it immediately triggered the PC’s antivirus program. When company researchers allowed the worm to infect the computer, the computer then attempted to spread the infection to other machines on the network. “iPower initiated a call and multiple emails to the camera manufacturer, Martel, on November 11th 2015,” the researchers wrote in the blog post. “Martel staff has yet to provide iPower with an official acknowledgement of the security vulnerability. iPower President, Jarrett Pavao, decided to take the story public due to the huge security implications of these cameras being shipped to government agencies and police departments all over the country.”

To this day, researchers aren’t sure what the purpose of the malware was. Remarkably, Conficker’s unknown operators were never observed using the worm to steal bank account credentials, passwords, or any other type of personal data from the PCs they infected. In 2009, Microsoft offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the menace. A report that police cameras are shipping with Conficker.B preinstalled is testament to the worm’s relentlessness. It’s also troubling because the cameras can be crucial in criminal trials. If an attorney can prove that a camera is infected with malware, it’s plausible that the vulnerability could be grounds for the video it generated to be thrown out of court, or at least to create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors. Infected cameras can also infect and badly bog down the networks of police forces, some of which still use outdated computers and ineffective security measures.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Jan 14, 2016

January 14, 2016 6 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the continued deceptive (and ultimately self-defeating behavior) of large software and hardware companies.

Link 1: You say advertising, I say block that malware

The real reason online advertising is doomed and adblockers thrive? Its malware epidemic is unacknowledged, and out of control. The Forbes 30 Under 30 list came out this week and it featured a prominent security researcher. Other researchers were pleased to see one of their own getting positive attention, and visited the site in droves to view the list. On arrival, like a growing number of websites, Forbes asked readers to turn off ad blockers in order to view the article. After doing so, visitors were immediately served with pop-under malware, primed to infect their computers, and likely silently steal passwords, personal data and banking information. Or, as is popular worldwide with these malware “exploit kits,” lock up their hard drives in exchange for Bitcoin ransom. One researcher commented on Twitter that the situation was “ironic” — and while it’s certainly another variant of hackenfreude, ironic isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe what happened.

Link 2: Get Windows 10′ Turns Itself On and Nags Win 7 and 8.1 Users Twice a Day

As you may recall, Microsoft has delivered KB3035583 as a ‘recommended update’ to users of Windows 7 and 8.1. What this update does is install GWX (“Get Windows 10”), a program which diagnoses the system to see if it is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10, and if so, asks the user if they would like to upgrade (though recently, the option to decline has been removed). Some users have gotten around this by editing Windows Registry values for “AllowOSUpgrade”, “DisableOSUpgrade”, “DisableGWX”, and “ReservationsAllowed” in order to disable the prompt altogether. This advice was endorsed by Microsoft on their support forums. According to a report by Woody Leonhard at InfoWorld, the newest version of the KB3035583 update includes a background process which scans the system’s Windows Registry twice a day to see if the values for the four aforementioned registry inputs were manually edited to disable the upgrade prompt. If they were, the process will alter the values, silently re-download the Windows 10 installation files (about 6 GB in total), and prompt the user to upgrade.

Link 3: Juniper drops NSA-developed code following new backdoor revelations

Juniper Networks, which last month made the startling announcement its NetScreen line of firewalls contained unauthorized code that can surreptitiously decrypt traffic sent through virtual private networks, said it will remove a National Security Agency-developed function widely suspected of also containing a backdoor for eavesdropping. The networking company said in a blog post published Friday that it will ship product releases in the next six months that remove the Dual_EC_DRBG random number generator from NetScreen firewalls. Security researchers have known since 2007 that it contains a weakness that gives knowledgeable adversaries the ability to decrypt encrypted communications that rely on the function. Documents provided by former NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden showed the weakness could be exploited by the US spy agency, The New York Times reported in 2013

Link 4: Et tu, Fortinet? Hard-coded password raises new backdoor eavesdropping fears

Less than a month after Juniper Network officials disclosed an unauthorized backdoor in the company’s NetScreen line of firewalls, researchers have uncovered highly suspicious code in older software from Juniper competitor Fortinet. The suspicious code contains a challenge-and-response authentication routine for logging into servers with the secure shell (SSH) protocol. Researchers were able to unearth a hard-coded password of “FGTAbc11*xy+Qqz27” (not including the quotation marks) after reviewing this exploit code posted online on Saturday. On Tuesday, a researcher posted this screenshot purporting to show someone using the exploit to gain remote access to a server running Fortinet’s FortiOS software. Ralf-Philipp Weinmann, a security researcher who helped uncover the innerworkings of the Juniper backdoor, took to Twitter on Tuesday and repeatedly referred to the custom SSH authentication as a “backdoor.” In one specific post, he confirmed he was able to make it work as reported on older versions of Fortinet’s FortiOS.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on the San Bernardino Mass Shooting: Dec 3, 2015

December 3, 2015 34 comments

As many of you might have heard, a Muslim husband-wife “team” shot up an office Christmas party in San Bernardino yesterday. While we still lack enough information to understand their precise motivations, currently available evidence suggests that the religious beliefs of shooters played a major role in their decision to do what they did. Having said that- this particular incident raises some interesting, and as yet unanswered, questions.

Question 1: What drove Syed Rizwan Farook to shoot up his own office Christmas Party? and why his own office Christmas Party?

Syed Farook was an US born 28-year old guy with a stable and well paid job with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for five years prior to the shooting. There is, currently, no evidence that he had any prior history of mental health issues or a significant criminal record. He also had no history of aggressively proselytizing his religion or expressing hatred for non-believers. By all accounts he was a quiet, polite and otherwise normal co-worker. There is also no evidence that his job or career was in any jeopardy. Perhaps most significantly, he was not on any watch-list for potential terrorists or religious radicals.

How does a guy with such a benign and unassuming profile go about shooting up his own office Christmas party? Why would this guy build an arsenal of pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices in his house? Shooting up a large group of people is not the result of a momentary lapse of mind. What would get a married guy with a 6-month old daughter and a decent and stable job to harbor such deep-seated resentment against people he worked with? What was in it for him?

Question 2: What was the role of his wife and co-shooter, Tashfeen Malik, in the shootings? Why was she so willing to participate?

It is no secret that the perpetrators of mass shootings are almost always male. The active participation of his wife in this mass shooting does therefore raise the next big question- What was in it for her? This is especially so because she had a 6-month old baby daughter. There is also no evidence that she neglected or abused her daughter. So what makes a 27-year old university-educated woman with a 6-month old daughter leave her daughter with the grandparents and go on a shooting spree with her husband?

There is also the question about the exact circumstances under which she first met her husband. While currently available information suggests that she met him online, we still don’t know where exactly they first crossed paths. Where does a supposedly devout Muslim woman living in Saudi Arabia meet a guy living in Southern California? What were the shared interests that initially brought them together. At this moment, we simply don’t know enough about the backstory of this couple.

Question 3: Why did they chose to shoot up his office Christmas party? What made it a more attractive target than a mall, theater or concert?

Terrorists tend to kill people in a manner that results in the maximum casualties as well as the maximum media exposure. Given their proximity to the Los Angeles metropolitan area which is far richer in soft targets, it is odd that they chose a venue with relatively fewer (70-80) people. I am actually surprised that they did not go on multiple shooting sprees in the LA metropolitan area- especially since they had more than enough ammunition to kill many more people. What made shooting up the office Christmas party more attractive than killing more at other venues?

Question 4: How much did their family and friends really know about their plans? Were they in contact with similar minded people in that part of the country?

Most of you have probably seen his relatives say something to the effect that they had no idea he was so radicalized. But is that really the case? It is clear that he was on good terms with more than a few of his close relatives. Did they really not notice that he was building pipe bombs in his townhouse and garage? Did they really not notice that he was making multiple improvised explosive devices in his house? Then there is the question of whether he was working with like-minded people in that part of California. Why would he make so many explosive devices for his own killing spree? Could more than a few of those devices have been made for some of his like-minded friends?

Question 5: Why is there no internet manifesto or video explaining his motivations for doing what he did? And what is the reason behind the couple destroying their smartphones and computer hard drives before embarking on their shooting spree?

As many of you know, mass shooters often leave behind some sort of written manifesto or video explaining what drive them to do what they did. So why did this couple not do so? This is especially puzzling as there are reports of them recording the mass shooting with GoPro-type body cameras. Why record something if you don’t want to share it with others? Or.. have they already sent that video to somebody in another country? Also, why destroy their smartphones and hide (and or destroy) the hard drives in their PCs? Who or what were they trying to protect?

In my opinion, this particular atypical mass shooting raises many more questions than previous events with similar body counts.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Sep 23, 2015

September 23, 2015 2 comments

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across recently. They are about the underlying issues that allow parasitic douchebags like Martin Shkreli to increase the price of 60-year old drugs by 5000%. Also read the comment sections for linked articles.

Link 1: Shkreli, Turing, and PhRMA

PhRMA still needs to make the case for why Turing is not just some bad little company that went a little too far. As it stands, people will look at them, look at the rest of the drug industry, and then decide that the difference is one of degree, not of kind. That, though, is why I think that PhRMA (and individual companies) have been so quiet during this fiasco. They don’t like the questions that would come up. Think about it – you come out and say that a fifty-fold price increase is completely out of line, and the follow-up question is (naturally) what sorts of price increases you think are in line. And nobody wants to talk about that. You come out and say that a company that buys into an old drug that it had not the slightest part in developing shouldn’t suddenly inherit the ability to ram its price through the roof, and the follow-up question is which drugs in your own portfolio were acquired from someone else, and how you’re pricing them. Finally, you come out and say that Turing’s rationale (R&D spending) is ridiculous, and the follow-up is how much you’re spending on your own R&D and how your prices relate to that.

By wrapping ourselves in statements of purpose and noble intentions, we in the R&D-driven part of the drug industry are doing ourselves a disservice. It leaves us unable to distinguish ourselves from obnoxious parasites, outfits like Turing that can, with a straight face, recite the same rationales. We’re going to have to be more forthcoming about how much money we spend, where it goes, and display our expensive failures to make the point that a lot of money has to come in, because a lot of money is also going out. If only one out of every ten cars that Ford developed – assembly lines and all – ever made it to the showrooms, cars would be more expensive. If only one out of every ten movies – after shooting, production, and editing – ever made it to theaters, ticket prices would go up. We get one of out of every ten drugs in the clinic to market, and we’ve got to pay for it somehow. We’re in the position of Adam Smith’s butcher, brewer, and baker: people don’t expect us to provide useful drugs sheerly out of the goodness of our hearts, good though some of them may be. But they shouldn’t be expecting us to skin them alive just because we might be able to get away with it, either.

Link 2: Should Martin Shkreli be allowed to play the Good Samaritan defense?

In a moment of candor no doubt brought on by some personal animosity, Martin Shkreli let down his guard on Sunday and told me exactly why he hiked the price of a 62-year-old drug by more than 5000%. “It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders,” Shkreli told me on Twitter. “I don’t expect the likes of you to process that.” He then called me a moron, and later bragged about flipping off the media. So there you have it. The unvarnished truth. It was a business decision. It was about money. And screw you.

It’s time for the industry to come up with a better reason for why we get up in the morning, and a more credible approach for dealing with controversies. Real innovation costs a lot of money and deserves to be well compensated. That model has created an industry which is seeing tens of billions of dollars being pumped into new product development. It has provided the world with a painless cure for hep C and huge advances in oncology in just the last few years. And much, much more. It’s OK to do good work for money. You also don’t have to play the Good Samaritan defense in the wake of a blunder. And it shouldn’t be allowed for execs like Shkreli, who is using the country’s no-holds-barred policy on drug prices to generate some fast cash. If you make a mistake, don’t play the same weak card. Not unless you want to find Martin Shkreli standing right beside you, shoulder to shoulder. That’s the kind of public relations disaster that this industry can no longer afford.

Link 3: Turing Pharma price hike debacle tars entire pharma industry’s reputation

Unfortunately for pharma and its already bottom-of-the-industry-polls reputation, the damage was already done. If Shkreli is, as the Daily Beast called him, “pharma’s biggest a**hole,” the problem is still bigger than one greedy and egocentric profiteer. The ongoing collateral tarnish of pricing issues on the entire industry’s reputation is one it can’t afford if it expects to maintain trusting relationships with physicians and consumers. “The problem is that Martin Shkreli is not the drug industry, but it would be easy for someone on the outside to mistake him for the drug industry. Particularly if you’re not overly fond of the drug industry to start with, as many people aren’t,” said Derek Lowe, a medicinal chemist and author of the blog In the Pipeline, in an interview. Frank David, founder and managing partner at Pharmagellan, blogging on Forbes, agreed. “The risk to all pharma companies is that this could become a story not about a single biotech, but about the industry as a whole and its insensitive, unethical pricing practices,” he said.

And that was about it–executives from the rest of the industry stayed publicly mum. TheStreet’s reporter Adam Feuerstein noted he couldn’t get any pharma CEOs to comment on the record. Execs commented privately to FierceBiotech as well, but didn’t take their arguments public. “The problem is that silence gives consent. People will say ‘well, they’re not saying anything against him, so they must be with him,'” Lowe said. “Staying silent looks like you’re OK with it.” And as David wrote, “We’ve seen this movie before – and we’re about to see it again, this time in drug pricing. Although Turing’s hefty hike may fail the red-faced test, no bright line divides it from what has become standard industry practice: annual double-digit percentage price increases on marketed drugs, year after year. Yes, 15% is less than 5,000% – but they both lie on a spectrum, and if pharma’s dismal approval rating continues to lie just below that of insurance companies, it’s hard to imagine much public sympathy materializing when companies try to explain the difference.

What do you think? Comments?

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 3

September 13, 2015 4 comments

In the previous two posts of this series, I talked about why the current success of Trump’s campaign for the republican nomination is an almost inevitable consequence of voters seeing that professional politicians are not especially qualified for their jobs. It is also quite obvious to most voters that professional politicians are pretty incompetent at doing their jobs. It is therefore not surprising that most voters see professional politicians as marginally clever professional liars whose actions principally benefit the very wealthy minority who in turn pay to have them elected and also create cushy post-politics positions and sinecures for them.

In other words, the median person in developed countries now see professional politicians as little more than the marginally attractive mistress of rich older men who will say and do everything to keep the money flowing in their direction. It is therefore no surprise that so many have a far higher opinion of independent politicians like Trump than establishment loyalists such as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

But this, by itself, does not explain why Trump can get away with saying almost anything about anybody. Many presstitutes, pundits and politicians cannot seem to figure out why insulting a supposed war hero turned politician like John McCain, a pretty white blond talking head (and body) like Megyn Kelly and pretty much anybody else who antagonizes him has no effect whatsoever on his rapidly rising public popularity. How can a politician who does not play by the rules of fake niceness and propriety so thoroughly trounce those who spent a lifetime studying and practicing those rules?

Presstitutes have put forth a variety of clever-sounding explanations to explain Trump’s ability to remain unscathed by whatever public outrage is generated by his criticism of his opponents- political or otherwise. Some attribute it to his extensive experience in reality TV. Others attribute it to his business acumen. Still others attribute it to his intuitive understanding of human psychology. But is that really the case? Can any of these theories really explain the continuous increase in public support for his candidacy?

Why doesn’t his ever-increasing support base care about the continuous stream of negative articles about him, his speeches or his tweets? Why has the progress of his campaign been so unusually gaffe-proof?

I have an explanation for this phenomena that is both rational and somewhat depressing for the perpetually positive types. It is based on a realistic look at the dynamics of contemporary human society, especially the version prevalent in USA and similar countries. A little over two years ago, I had written a post about how the dominance of an anodyne style of communication has played a major role in destroying societal trust. In that post I had said the following:

The nature of corporate communication has now become disturbingly similar to the fake biochemical signals used by metastasizing cancerous cells and viruses to use, abuse and subvert the host. But there is another dimension to this issue which makes it far more problematic in human societies. People, unlike cells, emulate and imitate strategies which are seen as successful for the individual, even if doing so destroys the social system that keeps things going. Consequently the ‘corporatese’ lies and selective truths that permeate large institutions and organisations seep into smaller versions of them and ultimately into general society. Soon almost everyone is communicating to each other with the same attitudes, mindsets and expectations as impersonal sociopathic corporations.

Another way of reading that paragraph is that we live in a society where anyone who appears to be unusually friendly, excessively polite and willing to help for “free” in the beginning is often (almost always correctly) seen as a crook, scam artist or inveterate liar or worse who is using his relative position or some aspect of the legal system to rob, scam, abuse or kill his or her unsuspecting victims. It goes without saying that societies with such high level of systemic mistrust are very brittle, unstable and well.. unlikely to last for any significant length of time (more than a few decades)- but that is a topic for another post.

Coming back to the topic at hand, it is common knowledge that the public persona of professional politicians are basically identical to those projected by corporations. Both try to portray themselves as being moral and upright persons with high ethical standards- basically an antithesis of their real selves. Both spend an unusual amount of time, effort and money in appearing professional, knowledgeable, competent, caring, altruistic and otherwise deserving of unquestioning obedience. Of course, even a cursory look at the world around you exposes these pretensions for what they really are.. clever-sounding lies to perpetuate continued exploitation.

But what does any of this have to do with Trump’s campaign being so successful and gaffe proof?

Well.. a lot. A society where almost every single conman, fraud and parasite is projecting a carefully put together persona tends to see people who don’t have such personas as being especially honest, authentic and trustworthy. This is doubly so if that person is willing to talk about issues and subjects that the “put together”-types deflect or avoid altogether. In other words, the societies in countries such as the USA are so screwed up that Trump is correctly seen as being less dishonest that somebody like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton. It certainly helps that he was already rich enough to never have entered politics to make a living. Now contrast that to almost every single politician who is completely dependent on continued presence in the political arena for making a living. Even extremely rich and famous politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney owe almost all of their considerable wealth to being in, or around, the political arena.

The nature of contemporary society is such that an overtly arrogant, reasonably intelligent and independently rich guy trolling the easily offended will be (correctly) seen as being far more honest and competent than people with carefully manufactured and manicured personas whose livelihood is intimately connected to continued presence in the political arena.

Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Sep 10, 2015

September 10, 2015 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across recently. They are about attempts by Microsoft to download (and potentially install) Windows 10 on people’s computers without their informed consent. I cannot escape the feeling that this whole Windows 10 business is deeply connected to some three-letter agency and subsequent exposure of this linkage will permanently damage the business prospects of Microsoft and likely other USA-based software (and potentially hardware) corporations.

Link 1: Microsoft Is Downloading Windows 10 Without Asking

Microsoft, having learned nothing from Apple and the U2 album, have started downloading Windows 10 as part of Patch Tuesday for Windows 7 and 8 users. For people on a 32GB flash drive tablet, that’s a big chunk of space taken up with something that they didn’t ask for. Microsoft admits to doing this, but users are not happy.

Related Link: Windows 10 Worst Feature Now Installing On Windows 7 And Windows 8

The three updates in question – KB3075249, KB3080149 and KB3068708 (which replaces KB3022345) – all add “customer experience and diagnostic telemetry” to Windows 7 and Windows 8. This is shorthand for monitoring how you use Windows and sending that data back to Microsoft HQ for evaluation. Worse still software specialist site gHacks, which first discovered the tracking, notes these updates will ignore any previous user preferences: “These four updates ignore existing user preferences stored in Windows 7 and Windows 8 (including any edits made to the Hosts file) and immediately starts exchanging user data with vortex-win.data.microsoft.com and settings-win.data.microsoft.com.”

Link 2: Microsoft is downloading Windows 10 to PCs, even if you don’t “reserve” a copy

You might be in the process of acquiring Windows 10—whether you want the free upgrade or not. Microsoft has confirmed that it is “helping upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they need” in the event that owners decide to migrate to the new OS, even if they have heretofore passed up on “reserving” their free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8. The issue seems to revolve around the Microsoft update KB3035583, and as such it appears to only afflict individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates. As far as we can tell, if you have automatic updates turned off, Windows 10 won’t be pre-loaded onto your PC.

According to The Inquirer, the situation was first reported by an anonymous reader who claimed to have discovered a hidden directory called $Windows.~BT on his computer, despite not opting in for a free upgrade to Windows 10. The directory weighed in at “3.5GB to 6GB,” according to the reader. “I thought Microsoft [said] this ‘upgrade’ was optional. If so, why is it being pushed out to so many computers where it wasn’t reserved, and why does it try to install over and over again?” he told the outlet.

Link 3: Microsoft thinks you’ll love Windows 10 so much, it downloads it for you — without asking

According to the Inquirer, a user who had never “reserved” a copy of Windows 10 in the first place found a large 6GB download sitting in the $Windows.~BT hidden directory, and a series of failed “Upgrade to Windows 10″ tasks in Windows Update’s history. In several cases, the new OS has been downloaded over metered connections, forcing people over their bandwidth caps in the process. When the Inquirer reached out to Microsoft, the company said the following: “For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade. “When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”

Link 4: Microsoft Secretly Downloading Windows 10 on All PCs?

Have you updated to Windows 10, or are you still rocking Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1? If you’re in the latter group, chances are that you already have Windows 10 stashed away on your hard drive whether you want to upgrade or not. Why? Because Microsoft wants to make the upgrade process quick and easy… if you want to upgrade, that is. “I know of two instances where people on metered connections went over their data cap for August because of this unwanted download. My own internet (slow DSL) was crawling for a week or so until I discovered this problem. In fact, that’s what led me to it. Not only does it download, it tries to install every time the computer is booted,” states an unnamed reader of The Inquirer.

What do you think? Comments?

On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 2

September 6, 2015 4 comments

In my previous post on this topic, I had suggested that the success of Trump’s campaign so far is a symptom of a far deeper issue- namely the ongoing falling apart of the modern nation-state. Basically, the irrational and hierarchical nature of modern nation states requires the general populace to delude themselves about the actual level of competence of those who occupy its commanding heights. In other words, the modern nation state starts falling apart once people can no longer fool themselves about the actual level of competence of those in positions of power- be they “professionals” such as doctors, scientists and or pretty much any other type of credentialed “experts”.

Belief in the competence of “professional” politician-types, which seems to infest all levels of governance in modern nation states, has taken an unusually large hit within the last two decades. Some of you might say that politicians (amateur or professional) were, historically, never widely seen as honest or trustworthy- and that is true. However politicians in modern nation states, especially those that were reasonably functional, were often seen as reasonably competent and capable of making fairly rational (if often self-serving) decisions. Now, whether this apparent competence in politicians of previous generations was real or not is controversial.

There are those who point out to past politicians who were instrumental in pushing positive socio-economic changes and then there are others who see it as some combination of a rapidly growing economy and selective memory about the past. In any case, my point about the popular perception that politicians from previous eras were more competent than their present day counterparts still holds. But what does any of this have to do with the Trump campaign- beyond the obvious fact that many voters do not hold his lack of “experience” in politics against him?

Well.. as it turns out, a lot.

The largely negative reaction by main stream media, especially its talking-/writing- heads, to his campaign cannot be explained unless you start understanding the real source of their dismay. This is especially true for the figuring out why the traditionally LIEbral media outlets are more critical of his campaign than their CONservative equivalents. How do you explain the endless stream of media hit pieces about that guy by supposedly LIEbral outlets such as NYT, WP, Bloomberg or their internet equivalents such as Salon, Slate, Dailykos etc?

It just does not make sense, at least if you believe that the people behind those media pieces want a democrat candidate to win in the 2016 presidential election. The Trump campaign has, till now, done far more damage to the presidential aspirations of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker.. and pretty much every other declared and undeclared republican candidate than it has to the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or anyone running for the democrat candidacy. The LIEbral media outlets should, if anything, be cheering him on as he gleefully destroys the public personas of an entire generation of politicians created by the post-1980s republican political machine.

And yet, oddly enough, the strongest and most persistent criticism of his campaign comes from LIEbral presstitutes, “experts” and talking heads. So, what is going on?

There are those who believe that the LIEbral media’s strong distaste for a Trump candidacy (or presidency) has to do avoiding embarrassment on the international stage or in their daily conversations. But, is that really the case? Here is some historical perspective.. More than half of all american soldiers who died (or were severely injured) in the failed attempt at colonizing Vietnam did so after Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th president in January 1969. However he is most remembered and despised for his role in the Watergate scandal. Similarly the main stream media still portrays the Reagan presidency in a largely positive manner though it was the starting point for many of our current problems- from growing income inequality, the “War on Drugs”, exorbitant spending on futuristic weapon systems with poor real life performance to persistent large-scale dabbling in Middle-Eastern politics.

The mainstream media is also largely silent on the role of Bill Clinton’s presidency on levels of mass incarceration, militarization of the police and financial deregulation. They are now similarly accepting of the 2000 presidential election, the invasion of Iraq, the “War on Terror”, decisions that lead to the housing bubble and financial crash of 2008. Today the mass media image of George W Bush has been normalized to that of a slightly eccentric grand-father who lives in the country, rather than as the stupid and incompetent asshole whose decisions (and indecisions) resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens to hundreds of thousands of people. I could go about the current guy occupying that office, but you get my point. The mainstream media has been remarkably quiet about the horrendous incompetence of professional politicians who were elected to the presidential office.

So why would a Trump presidency be any worse for the USA than those of Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 or Obama? And what makes somebody like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker any more qualified to be the official republican candidates or get elected to office?

The answer to that question is as follows: there is no reason to suggest that a Trump presidency would be any more disastrous to the USA than any of his predecessors, or competitors for the party nomination. The other side of this answer is that lifelong “professional” politicians such as Hillary Clinton and her type on the democrat side are rather similar to their republican counterparts such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker. Consequently, a candidate who can defeat Bush, Rubio or Walker in the race for republican candidacy can do the same in the presidential race against a “professional” politician such as Hillary Clinton. As many of you know, her high unfavorability ratings make it hard for her to win against someone who is seen as a likable “outsider”.. you know like Obama in 2008.

The LIEbral media’s strong distaste for a Trump candidacy or presidency is, therefore, largely about trying to ensure a win for their “professional” politician patrons such as Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. Those who write or make those media hit pieces have a lot to lose if their old patronage networks stop working like they used to. Presstitutes, “experts” and other assorted talking heads are primarily interested in maintaining the stability of their own income stream- preferably with the minimum of effort. They are not interested in the effects of their actions on the welfare on the general populace, who are seen as all gullible outsiders ripe for manipulation. Unfortunately for them, the combination of factors which made that a viable lifestyle in the past has largely and irreversibly dissipated.

Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.

What do you think? Comments?

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