Apple’s “We’re Gonna Creep You Out On Your IPhone” Patent

Back in 1984, the upstart Apple Computer revealed a ground-breaking television commercial during the broadcast of Super Bowl XVIII, the infamous “Big Brother” ad that announced the introduction of the Macintosh Computer:

Note the words used as the tagline:

And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.

Apparently, Apple has decided to wait until 2010 to make it seem like 1984. In a recent patent application, Apple describes a set of features and functions they plan to develop for some of their devices, with the focus apparently on the iPhone. If you take a few minutes to read this application, you’ll begin to realize that Apple is planning on creating a real Orwellian world among its iPhone users, all in the name of protecting the device from unauthorized use.

First of all, let’s get something straight about cell phone security. Assume for the moment that you own a typical GSM-based cellular device (I’m sure the world of CDMA phones and ESNs is similar). All GSM cellular devices can be uniquely identified by the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. While hardly 100% foolproof or effective in preventing unauthorized use, if a GSM phone owner loses their device or the device is stolen, the victim can contact the cellular vendor and provide the IMEI number and request the phone be blocked from usage by anyone else. This usually only works in the country where the phone was originally sold, and there are allegedly ways to reprogram the original IMEI number to a new one (but not legally and not without great difficulty and costly equipment). Nevertheless, it’s a good immediate response to prevent someone from using your device after a theft or while you try to recover it.

(Note: this means you should make a record of the IMEI and the cell’s serial number and model when you buy it).

Apple, however, is looking out for their users, and they plan on utilizing some truly creepy features on their devices. The goal is to make certain the the device is being used by an “authorized” user. A short list of these “features” includes:

“…a microphone operable to record the voice of the current user…to…compare the recorded voice with voice prints of authorized user of the electronic device; and determine that the recorded voice does not match the voice print of any authorized user of the electronic device…”

“…a heartbeat sensor operable to detect the heartbeat of the current user…to…compare the detected heartbeat with heart signatures of each authorized user of the electronic device; and determine that detected the heartbeat does not match the heart signature of any authorized user of the electronic device…”

“…a camera operable to take a photograph of the vicinity of the electronic device; and positioning circuitry operable to determine current location information of the electronic device; and wherein the processor is further operable to: geotag the photograph by associating the photograph with the current location information…”

“…an electronic device comprising; an input device operable to receive a password provided by a user; a camera operable to take a photograph of the user; a processor operable to: determine that a predetermined number of incorrect passwords have been successively received; direct the camera to take a photograph of the user; and generate an alert notification in response to the processor determining, wherein the alert notification comprises information related to the identity of the user and the photograph of the user; and communications circuitry operable to transmit the alert notification to a remote device….”

“…wherein the alert notification is transmitted via one of text message, facsimile, VoIP application, instant messaging application, on-line profile application, on-line blog application, and a cloud server…”

Let me sum up…

You buy an iPhone. You then will be required (I assume this will be a requirement) to submit, to Apple or their agent, digital prints of your speaking voice, a photograph of your face, recordings of your heartbeat, and, apparently, photographs of locations you hang out at, in addition to sample ambient sounds and vibrations from said hangouts, in addition to other possible identifying factors. Apple is going to store all these things on some server, and when they’re suspicious of the person who happens to be using your phone, they’re going to activate all these tools, gather some biometric information and compare what they get to what they have in storage.

What could possibly go wrong?

And I suppose if it ain’t you holding the phone when the Apple police arrive, you’re going to wind up strapped to a table next to poor old Winston Smith, waiting for some shock treatment to get you right in your mind.

My first question would be: what if more than one person uses my phone? What if I loan the phone to my wife, my daughter, a friend? Does this unexpected change in voice patterns indicate some foul play afoot? Am I going to be forced to bail my wife out of the joint because I made the boneheaded decision to loan her my iPhone?

Naturally, the truly frightening aspect to this is the idea that all this biometric information is stored on some server that can be reached in seconds using the cellular phone networks. What are the chances that those servers aren’t going to be the targets of attacks by people seeing to steal some identifying information about Apple customers?

What I find particular disconcerting is that there are three people listed on the patent application as developers of these ideas and concepts. I can’t imagine that they didn’t sit down and discuss these ideas and plans without some chill running up their own spines about the invasion of privacy all this “security” is going to provide.

However, here is the most frightening things of all: millions of Apple iPhone users will likely think this is a terrific idea, and will gladly upgrade their current, non-spying-capable iPhone to the latest Big-Brother-Is-Calling device the moment it’s released to the public. Trust me, people will beat the doors down at the local AT&T store to get one. And at full price, too.

My “tiring memes” entry.

While wasting valuable time browsing the web last night, I saw an article headline that deeply struck my annoyance nerve. I began wasting time thinking about how the web has created so-called “memes” that repeat themselves, vanish for a while, then return, as though it was the first time they appeared. Including the word “meme.”

I wasted even more time compiling a short list, to which I invite my reader to add additional items:

  1. The Internet or the web are “dead”. Recently dragged up again by Wired, a normally-sensible publication. Of course, they differentiate between the “web” and the “Internet” (there is a difference). We keep hearing about the death of one or the other, as though we’re all eventually going to have telepathic chips embedded in our brains, mitigating the need for computers, smart phones, iPads, etc. Yuk.
  2. This is the year of the Linux Desktop! Any long-time open source or Linux advocate will tell you they’ve heard this one a billion times. Here’s a trick: enter the words “year of the linux desktop” into a Google search. You’ll get about 6 million results. Most will tell you how this is the year, finally, that Linux breaks through on the desktop (whatever that’s supposed to mean), while a significant chunk of them will tell you why it won’t happen this year or why it won’t happen at all, while not really mattering anyway.
  3. Articles on entertainment or gossip websites that refer to Kim Kardashian as a “starlet”. I happened to see her described with that word in a web headline yesterday. Can someone please explain to me what, other than a reality show, has Ms. Kardashian or any of her bimbo clan actually starred in? Appearing on TV in a program that documents the shallowness of your privileged lifestyle doesn’t make you a “starlet.” Having no body hair doesn’t count, either.
  4. How Americans have a “problem” with one thing or another. This week, it’s Muslims. Objecting to a mosque two blocks from where radical Muslims (practicing their religious beliefs) murdered nearly 3000 people indicates we have a “problem.” The list of apparent “problems” we Americans have can be pretty long. I don’t know about the rest of you, but not liking something doesn’t indicate the presence of a “problem.” I don’t like car accidents; this doesn’t mean I have a “problem” with cars.
  5. Blog articles that gripe about or praise something in order to start a “meme”. You know, like this one. Wasted enough time yet?

You can learn a lot from insignificant rock stars.

No, this isn’t a story about Sheryl Crow and her recycled toilet paper. I’m saving that one for tomorrow. Hell, how many of these do you expect me to do in one day? I’m supposed to be working.

This tale is even more interesting than someone as D-List as Crow. My amazement at the brilliance of some celebrities never ceases. The latest example of deep philosophical thought comes from the fertile mind of one John Mellencamp, who I was surprised to see was still making recordings, let alone doing something that would attract any media attention. The article mentions that Mellencamp has stayed in his native Indiana because he claims that “he never fit in elsewhere.” Based on some of the comments he made, it’s evident that John needs to get out more.

First, he introduces the world to a new cultural/ethnic group, “the China-Russians or something.” Either he’s either been in the basement too long, or the rest of us have completely missed the merger and acquisition of Russia by the Chinese, or of China by the Russians, or however it happened. This new union has produced a race of people who apparently are, as Mellencamp puts it, “some smart people,” since they’re going to come up with a way to take down our “power grid and financial system.” Using the Internet, no less. I know about Internet security issues; it’s part of what I do for a living. But I’m unaware of this new race of super-brilliant people tearing down our global information grid. We are able to protect some stuff, John.

He then makes the allegation that the music and movie businesses are going to be destroyed by the Internet, which is as dangerous as an “atomic bomb.” He uses the iPod and digital music files as an example of this coming annihilation:

For starters, the popularity of digital downloads, which fans listen to on their MP3 players and computers, has come at the expense of sound quality, he said.

He recalled listening to a Beatles song on a newly remastered CD and then on an iPod, and “you could barely even recognize it as the same song. You could tell it was those guys singing, but the warmth and quality of what the artist intended for us to hear was so vastly different.”

Maybe John didn’t read the news about young people and their hearing today. The quality of MP3s won’t matter soon, since they’re all going deaf anyway.

But let’s get a bit serious for a second. I can’t believe I have to explain this to someone who actually works in the music industry. John, why do you think those digital files sound like shit? Well, you can blame it on the compression methods used by distributors, both the MP3 format and the Apple-centric AAC format. Both methods are forced to compress the size of the file digitally, decreasing the dynamic range of the music (among other things) and affecting how we hear it, especially in an environment like a set of earbuds.

Perhaps John hasn’t been informed that a “lossless” compression method (such as my favorite, the completely free FLAC format would go a long way to preserving that sound he enjoys so much.

Then in an honestly self-effacing way, he informs us that what we listen to today will eventually be forgotten:

At any rate, most rock ‘n’ roll — including his own contributions — will eventually be forgotten, he said, likening its demise to that of big-band music, which was all the rage during the 1930s and ’40s.

“After a few generations, it’s gone,” he said. “Rock ‘n’ roll — as important as we think it is, and as big as it was, and as much money as people made on it, and as proud as I am to say that I was part of it — at the end of the day, they’re gonna say: ‘Yeah, there was this band called the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, and this guy named Bob Dylan…’

“And the rest of us? We’re just gonna be footnotes…”

Let me see if I have this correct? Generations from now, people are going to forget the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan? Really? I have a question: have we forgotten Mozart? Beethoven? Brahms? We’re quite a few generations removed from those guys. As for big-band music, I have a really wonderful recollection of that era, guys with names like Basie, Ellington, James, Goodman and Calloway. I will bet Mr. Mellencamp that I have a far greater recollection of their music than I do of any of his songs.

Perhaps it never occurred to him that the depth, quality and substance of your creations are what make you memorable to successive generations of listeners. Apparently, he doesn’t see his own contributions in that way. I agree with him. I can remember exactly one line from “Jack and Diane.”

One of the criticisms of modern life (something with which I agree) is that we allow life to pass by too quickly. Young people, we older folks complain, have such short attention spans and can barely remember something of substance they read yesterday. Kids today don’t give things a chance to sink in, they don’t see the connections between what’s happening today and what occurred in recent history.

Right on cue, Mellencamp comments on something that occurred at a church where he recorded his more recent music:

Mellencamp recalled that he and his wife Elaine even got baptized at the church. “For about a half hour I really felt uplifted. It wore off,” he said.

Gee, John, I don’t suppose the two of you might have given the baptismal blessings a chance to work, did you? Getting baptized isn’t like having a few beers while watching your team win a football game — the feeling is not supposed to wear off by the morning, like a hangover. Baptism, no matter what faith or denomination has provided it, is the beginning of a different way of life.

However, I think I know how he feels. He forgot his baptism pretty quickly, the way many of us forgot most of his music right after we heard it.

Pat Condell sums it up perfectly.

Pat Condell, an Irish-born satirist and comedian, addressed the Ground Zero Mosque issue back in June, long before it became the Big Effing Deal/Major News Story that it is now. I’ve had some discussion about this with others, and what I’ve said about it is…well, what the hell, spend five minutes reading some posts here and you can probably figure that out for yourself.

But Mr. Condell articulates his position so well, with both alacrity and sensibility, I wouldn’t even try to express my opinion. In fact, I wouldn’t even try to repeat or summarize what he says.

Trust me when I tell you that this is six minutes of video you must watch. Please.

Why are there always conditions with hunger strikes?

The news is just filled with wonderful crap today. This is a news cycle that real bloggers dream about. I dreamed about going home on Thursday last night, which proves I’m no longer a “real” blogger. But, I can’t resist this shit.

The Story of the Day has to be the one about two clowns out in California who are running for Congress. One’s a Democrat, one’s a Libertarian, and they want the Republican incumbent to debate them so badly, they’re on a hunger strike to get the guy to do it now, rather than wait until October (when more people will probably care).

I mean, come on, this isn’t Gandhi protesting against the oppression of his people, or activists protesting a war or the death penalty..you know, a cause with some substance.

Here’s the problem with your act, guys: no one is going to care. In fact, most people are going to view this stunt as something really pointless. If the man doesn’t want to debate you now, why don’t you spend this valuable time getting out in public, pressing the flesh, greeting folks coming out of work or at the park on a weekend morning. You know, the old-fashioned stuff politicians traditionally do when they’re trying to catch the attention of their potential constituents.

Hell, if I’m Congressman Hunter, I’d be very supportive of this hunger strike by my opponents. Not that I’d want them to die or anything, but what’s that analogy? Always to give your opponent enough rope with which to hang himself?

Of course, something like a hunger strike over a political debate must have its conditions:

So far, Lutz has had a rough ride: He’s missed 17 meals, lost 14 pounds, taken an enema to avoid toxic shock, talked to a doctor who recommended a salt-water purge, given up exercise and is so tired he has resorted to napping during the day.

But unlike the Irish Republicans who died of starvation after hunger strikes protesting British rule in the 1980s, Lutz will only go so far. “I don’t want to die – going to a debate with Duncan Hunter is not important enough for me to die,” he told POLITICO on Tuesday.

Hmm, let’s see: He doesn’t want to die. Debating his opponent isn’t important enough for him to die. This is important enough for him to miss 17 meals, lose 14 pounds, have a freaking enema, and be unable to function in any normal physical manner.

So, can somebody please tell me what the point of this is?

Before I go on a drinking strike to get the right answer?

More proof that politicians suck.



Remember John Kerry?

I used to write about him here a lot. He ran for President against George W. Bush in 2004. He lost.

If you examine his record on tax legislation, you won’t be surprised at his rating by the National Taxpayers Union. Senator Kerry, like his late and beloved fellow chowd Senator, Ted Kennedy, doubtless never met a tax he didn’t like.

At least until he has to pay one.

Senator Kerry is stashing his recently-purchased $7 million yacht in Newport, Rhode Island (not exactly the slums of New England) to avoid paying $437,000 in sales tax and $70,000 in annual licensing taxes on the vessel. Of course, one of his aides tells a different story. Yeah, sure, he’s parking the boat there for maintenance by the builder, blah, blah.

Please, spare me. The Massachusetts coast is lined with marinas that are fully capable of doing whatever maintenance he needs. Wouldn’t one also think that, as a United States Senator, he would want to bring the work to his own state, to generate income for a few his own constituents during this time of recession. Like most states in that region, Massachusetts is having its share of financial problems, and any activity that generates income to citizens (and tax revenue for the state) would be welcome. Wouldn’t you think?

I don’t have an issue with someone avoiding taxes. Like many Americans, I try to do it all the time. I would be pretty outraged if I had to lay out seventy thousand clams on licensing fees each year. Hell, you should hear me grumbling when I have to pay the tag fees on three cars in Florida.

Then again, my wife isn’t heir to a ketchup fortune. Or a mustard fortune. In fact, I think we’re out of steak sauce…

Senator, please don’t send your hacks out to stammer out some bald-faced half-truth about why you won’t bring the boat to your home state. Considering how much dough your wife is rolling in, don’t you think she could have ponied up the money to the state?

Maybe there’s another Scott Brown waiting in the wings up there.

UPDATE: looks like the Senator is caving on the tax and will pay it in full. Sure, because he got caught. Or maybe Theresa let him go into her wallet.

I have a bone to pick with one of the responses to this. The Massachusetts GOP Chairperson made the following statement:

“Senator Kerry will only pay the taxes because he got caught,” party Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour said in a statement. “He should spend more time creating jobs rather than customizing his yacht. Democrats think they live by another set of rules, and the voters of the commonwealth will soon remind them they do not.”

Jennifer, wait a minute. There’s something that you and a lot of other so-called “conservatives” need to get straight: John Kerry cannot create jobs for the people of Massachusetts, or anyplace else, for that matter. Yes, he can dock his boat in Cape Cod and give the maintenance work to local citizens (a good idea on its own). But can we stop complaining about how Kerry, the rest of the Congress and the President aren’t “creating jobs”? They cannot do it.

Businesses create jobs. Businesses that aren’t taxed and regulated into submission, as they are now, and will continue to be under the current system. If Senator Kerry and his ilk would vote against or get rid of a few taxes, the job creation will take care of it self.

Thanks for reading.

Shocked

So we suddenly learn that a group of “journalists” (a term that stretches the definition of the word when you see some of their names) secretly plotted to quash any news stories connecting President Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Other than the fact that these idiots are still using a listserv for communicating with one another, does this revelation really surprise you? Are you truly stunned to learn that a bunch of (allegedly) unbiased “reporters” did something to prop up the man-child currently occupying the White House?

When I witness the hoopla about something like this, I can’t help but think of this great scene from Casablanca:

Your winnings, sir…

Two reasons there is a God.

Kelly at the Cliffs of Moher

Kelly stands before the “impenetrable” fence protecting humans from the precipice of the Cliffs of Moher in western Ireland. This photo was taken during our recent ten-day road trip around the Republic. Ireland is one of the truly beautiful places in the world, and the people are supremely generous and accommodating.

Of course, it’s not often you get to photograph two of God’s wonderful creations at the same time.

Lucky me.

Tweets.

I was home in Florida this weekend. On Sunday, my daughter Kaitie and I were talking about something tech-related.

I asked her if she tweeted.

She said no.

I don’t tweet either. But that fact that I was able to just say “do you tweet?” to her, and that she knew exactly what I meant, frightens me to some degree.

My face is not a book. Stay out of my space. I’M not going to IM you. Birds tweet.

Paid the cost to be the boss.

Hello.

I just paid my domain name registration renewal fee.

Which means I own “tommydoc.net” for another year. This transaction was carried out automatically by my hosting company, so I wasn’t even aware that the time to pay had arrived.

The least I could do is post something current. I’ve been looking for an excuse, and here it is.

So, hello, again.

Dear XM Radio…

This morning, I received an email from XM Radio about a firmware upgrade for my Pioneer XMP3 portable satellite device. One of the additions this update will provide is charging the unit’s battery in a standard USB port, which would be a very handy feature. I was looking forward to doing the update until I visited the link they provided, where I discovered that I would be required to have Windows XP SP2 with Windows Media Player 11 or higher to flash the radio. Since I’m currently Windows-free (and have been for many, many years), I’m out of luck.

I sent the following message to the folks at XM this morning via their website. As I state in the message, I know complaining about this probably isn’t going to provide the solution I need. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t express my dissatisfaction.

After reading this, you may wonder why I just don’t bring the radio to my job and to the update on one of their computers. I work in the Pentagon. I can’t even bring the radio into my office, let along plug it into a DOD computer.

Here’s what I wrote. Let’s see what happens.

I received an email today regarding a firmware upgrade for my Pioneer XMP3 portable XM satellite radio. While I appreciate the direct notice of this upgrade and the performance enhancements it will allegedly provide, there’s one thing I don’t appreciate. Why is it that companies like XM assume that everyone who subscribes to their services and uses XM equipment also uses Microsoft Windows?

I have been a Linux-only user since the mid-1990s. I have no use for Windows, don’t care for it’s lack of security, and I truly despise the closed, locked-down nature of the system and its software. The only time I ever use the system is during my daily tasks at work, because I’m required to do so.

There isn’t anything I cannot do in Linux that requires I also have Windows installed somewhere. Apparently other than updating my XM Radio firmware.

Linux works with all PC hardware, including the industry-standard USB ports that are likely required to perform the firmware update. How difficult would it be for a large, technologically-advanced organization like XM/Sirus to hire a couple of Linux developers to create a tool for performing this function on the Linux platform?

I know you believe that the number of XM users who also use some version of Linux doesn’t justify the cost of staffing developers to provide this service. I believe you would be shocked at how many of your customers actually do use Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE or one of the dozens of other Linux distributions. Someone with Linux development knowledge could create a single tool that would work on all versions of the operating system.

I realize complaining about this probably isn’t going to help me get my radio updated. But you need to understand the frustration of people like me…professional adults who spend money on your company’s services…who rarely seem to get any large company to understand that Windows is not the ubiquitous platform you believe it is.

By the way, not that this helps me, but I also notice you ignored the millions of people who own these devices and use one of Apple’s Macintosh systems. I don’t see an upgrade tool or method for them either.

I ask that you please excuse me now. I need to go borrow a Windows system from someone if I want to do this XMP3 upgrade.

Shut up yourself, Meghan.

I’ve been busy lately, but…

Why does Meghan McCain think anyone wants to hear what she has to say? Just being the daughter of a nationally-recognized politician doesn’t necessarily give your political opinions any more weight than anything I say in this little blog. And no one pays me.

Even worse, she contradicts herself: …I am not trying to be a pundit… Seriously? Than what do you call blogging for the Daily Beast and making speaking appearances at universities or any place that will pay you a fee?

How about this interesting juxtaposition of viewpoints:

The daughter of Sen. John McCain—who’s also a blogger and columnist at The Daily Beast–has been a vocal supporter of some issues not typically backed by the right (especially gay marriage), which has made her a media target. Addressing this point, she asked the crowd of college students: “Where the hell did the notion of free speech go?”

Well, she’s absolutely right. The problem is, the quote above follows this one:

She then went after Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann. McCain said both of them are ruining the political process by killing people’s desire to become involved, according to the Hatchet.

“Please, Keiths and Rushes of the world, pipe down,” McCain said.

I see. Rush and Keith have to shut up, but you’re allowed to say whatever you like. Maybe someone needs to tell this airhead that free speech is fine, but there is no constitutional right to be heard.

OK, enough. I’ve added far to many italics to this post already.

OMG!!! You can crack into Apache!!! Oh, wait…

Big news in the IT community this morning. Apparently, a security vulnerability has been discovered in Apache Web Server, the single-most used httpd server on the planet. According to the fellow who discovered the security hole:

…(b)y exploiting the module, an attacker could remotely gain system privileges that would compromise data security.

Those of you who follow these things know that Apache has long held the reputation of speed, high capability, scalability, and most importantly, solid security.

Oh, wait…apparently the Apache security hole exists in one of its many modules. Apache uses modules as a way of plugging capabilities into the base web server. This allows the server administrator to load only those features and capabilities the site needs.

The module in question is called mod_isapi. And what purpose does mod_isapi serve? According to Apache’s HTTPD server documentation,

…(t)his module implements the Internet Server extension API. It allows Internet Server extensions (e.g. ISAPI .dll modules) to be served by Apache for Windows, subject to the noted restrictions.

So, the vulnerability is exploitable only in Windows systems running Apache.

Only in Windows. I’m shocked, shocked to find that Windows is vulnerable to attack!

Well, shocked or not, here’s my question: why would anyone in their right mind want to run a Ferrari-like server application like Apache’s on a Yugo-like operating system like Windows anyway?

Current links of interest (Geek department)

This isn’t a link aggregation site, but I saw a couple of tech-related items that might be of interest to some of you. This also enables me to post something without having to be creative. Heh.

  • Employment and the future are big issues in our current economic crisis, so any really information on the job frontier will interest many of you. Do you young ‘uns about to enter college want some advice on a secure future after graduation? Get a computer science degree. Now, for those of you terrified by the word “science,” let me unequivocally state that you don’t really need a desire to become a “scientist” to major in computer science. I was mediocre at any math above the level of trigonometry, and I struggled even passing most science courses, due to a lack of interest or the inability to memorize all the required terminology. While my attitude towards both has matured with age, I still managed to carve out a nice career for myself in the IT world.

    The article has a slideshow of ten top-notch computer science universities. Take some other advice: you don’t need to attend M.I.T., Stanford or Carnegie-Mellon to get a very high-quality CS education. I’ll bet a good state university in your area has one you can afford, too. Go forth, compute and get a job. I’d recommend my alma mater, the University of North Florida, but I’m a bit embarrassed by the computer school’s lame web page.

  • No one likes to spend the money that software companies charge for their products. Considering the number of free and open source alternatives out there, it’s a wonder anyone does put up with the expense. Of course, the biggest culprit in this today is Microsoft. Don’t spend all that money (yes, even the “discounted” cost for students) on application suites like Microsoft Office when you can get something just as good for free: OpenOffice.

    Here’s a great site that give some advice on transitioning from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.

  • Finally, for those of you seriously considering making the plunge to Linux and dumping Windows for good, this article will explain how to get started getting Linux on your system, and what to expect after you do. Lots of good advice here.

Why you need to make sure Mom doesn’t toss your comics out.

An original copy of Action Comics #1, the comic that introduced Superman to the world, was recently sold in a private transaction. For one million bones.

I wonder what this kind of thing (and other valuable collectibles) would be worth if our Moms decided not to throw out all the stuff we had stashed in the attic. I owned three complete sets of the 1961 New York Yankees Topps baseball cards (including the one with the team picture) at one time, probably as late as 1964. I started that collection when I was six, and over the next couple of years, managed to obtain the rest of them from among non-Yankee fan friends, usually via trades of more current cards. I vaguely remember storing them somewhere in my house, but I have no idea whatever happened to them. I have to assume that Mom didn’t see the potential future value in such things, and out they went.

Either that, or my kid brother sold them for a bag of golf tees.

My only consolation is that owning three complete sets would have diluted the collector value of them to some degree.

Well, it’s not like I would have sold them for a million bucks anyway, right?

If you have Windows 7, I’m sorry. You will be, too. Soon.

We Linux pests love reading crap like this. Anything I find that convinces me that Windows is evil is always welcome in the Attaboy world.

Consider this scenario: you’ve purchased a new laptop or computer, perhaps during the recent holidays. You’re happily humming along as it runs Windows 7. Occasionally, the system will inform you that some critical updates are ready, and for convenience, you simply have them installed automatically.

All of a sudden, one night, while your browsing the web or typing up a report, the wallpaper on your screen turns black. You also begin receiving a series of annoying nag screens from the system. Your copy of Windows 7, the screens claim, is pirated. You need to fix this, they say, or else your system will have many of its features disabled. Time to break out the credit card.

Think this won’t happen? Think again.

Don’t believe me. Read Lauren Weinstein’s blog entry on this (along with her historical articles on Windows Genuine Advantage, another anti-piracy tool).

As Ms. Weinstein states multiple times, no one should have an issue with Microsoft trying to protect its presence in the computing community by fighting the piracy of its products. But I see this “phoning home” idea of ratting on users to be a little too invasive. And you can bet that this will somehow get screwed up, as many perfectly legal and legitimate copies of Windows 7 are targeted as fakes.

Based on Ms. Weinstein’s article, getting caught in this little counterfeit-hunting web isn’t going to be fun if you get targeted, as most of the negative effects are not reversible. And once again, the innocent user is going to be considered guilty of something unless they can prove otherwise.

I’ve been railing for years about the fact that you can barely purchase a computer system from nearly all of the major vendors that doesn’t have Windows pre-installed. Not only are people practically forced to use Windows (by osmosis, mostly), but now they may become the victims of some kind of criminal manhunt, even when they’ve done nothing wrong.

I’m going to say it again: why would anyone in their right mind put up with this bullshit? Bad enough that Windows systems are routinely targets of malware attacks, but now you’re treated like Al Capone as well?

I am willing to bet that a large majority of average computer users could do what they needed to do just fine with an alternative like Linux. I’ll even recommend a distribution that would make nearly everyone happy: Linux Mint.

Mint is based on the ubiquitous Ubuntu, but with a slightly different philosophy. The Mint builders have included many of the “non-free” or proprietary items left off many other versions of Linux. By adding these extra things in during the initial installation, the user will have the same experiences they would expect from the standard Windows installation. For the most part, this means all the multimedia stuff works, because the proper video and audio codecs are in place already.

In other versions of Linux, these things are left out, in order to keep the distribution pristine and “free,” in accordance with the philosophy of free and open source software. Most distros make these items available for optional downloads and installations by the user. Mint just installs the stuff anyway.

I’ve been using Linux on my personal systems for many, many years, and I’ve found Mint to be a great, general purpose, everyday-use distribution that would provide everything the typical user needs: networking, web access tools, office suites, multimedia applications and tools for music and video, development tools and environments, along with repositories containing thousands of additional free software.

And nothing on the system will ever phone home and rat you out.

Well, let’s just see…

…how much activity I get now that I’ve been “away” for a year. I thought I’d take a crack at this, mostly because I was momentarily bored.

And now for the news…

In the continuing saga of EveryoneWhoUsesWindows vs. The Bad Guys, the Bad Guys appear to be winning again. The Zeus botnet Trojan, an analysis of which you can read here, appears to be responsible for some major system compromises.

According to this WSJ story, the Zeus Trojan has compromised a number of systems in both the business and government sectors.

Now, I’m not going to comment further other than to remind everyone that the major security hole that’s responsible for this is something familiar to everyone: Windows.

Microsoft’s failures to provide any comfort level regarding security in any version of Windows, going back to the dark ages of Windows 95, is well-documented. But the failure of business, government and individuals to find a proper approach to computer security is an even bigger problem. There’s no absolutely certain method of preventing attacks on computer networks or systems, no matter what platform you use.

But since the primary focus of these attacks seems to be on Windows systems, one has to wonder how long the victims will continue to allow themselves to be shot in the foot because of their choice of operating system.

Yes, yes, I know, transitioning to another platform is expensive and time-consuming. Users don’t like change, and they might not “accept” a secure Linux distribution on the desktop, they have to “learn” a whole new system, blah, blah, blah.

They all had to learn Windows and its applications at some point, right? As much as people don’t like change, they also tend to be resilient and flexible when change is necessary.

Well, enough mind-stretching for now. I hope someone sees this.

Nice changes.

Here’s a list:

Joe Biden, in Congress for 30+ years, is Vice-President-elect.

Rahm Emanuel, former Clinton counsel and congressman, is the new Chief of Staff.

Eric Holder, who worked in the Clinton Justice Department, is the Attorney General-designate.

Gregory Craig, who served as Clinton’s impeachment lawyer and was one of the sharks primarily responsible for handing Elian Gonzalez back to fidel and the Worker’s Paradise, is now White House counsel.

Word is out that former Senator and America’s most boring public speaker, Tom Daschle, has been asked to lead Health and Human Services.

And, of course, there’s the big story that Mrs. Rodham is being vetted for the Secretary of State job. Bill Clinton has also agreed to be vetted fully, which seems odd; he served in the White House for eight inglorious years…what’s he been doing since then that requires “vetting”?

So, to all you Obama supporters who swallowed that Change mantra that he spouted for the past 18 months…where the hell is the change? Looks to me like we’re getting many of the Usual Suspects back on the Federal payroll. In fact, one or two more of these carefully-considered choices might give us the entire Clinton Administration again. And we all know how that worked out the first time, don’t we?

There is nothing different about this man and his policies. We’re about to embark on a minimum of four years of the most miserable government intrusion into our lives than we’ve experienced in the history of this nation. Thanks a lot, folks.

Well, I can’t say I’m all that surprised, especially when one considers that most of Obama’s lemmings didn’t know much about what they were voting for in the first place.

Bend over. Here it comes again.