Monthly Archives: January 2013

Midweek music: Retro… Dan Hartman – I can dream about you (because….Walter Hill)

It’s a very retro moment that Sly Stallone has a new movie out in 2013 with Walter Hill! In 1984, almost 30 years ago, Hill had a big movie out that was also very retro at the time called  Streets of Fire. Here’s a clip from that film


Hey journalists (and others): here’s a simple way to generate passwords to make it harder for hackers to break

It’s simple. Go to a Starbucks. Pick up one of those cards that has free apps/movie/song of the day. On the back is a code. Use that as your password. Keep the code in your wallet. Do this on a frequent basis.

Want to make it more secure? Add numbers and punctuation to the beginning or the end.

Worried the code isn’t random enough? Type it in backwards or add punctuation and random characters in the middle (e.g. after the first three characters).

For example, here is the code on the card I have: A63RKXMEWWJ6. (No, it is not used on any of my passwords.)

If I go to a site like this, How Secure Is My Password?, and type it in, it tells me it will take 37 years to break it using a PC. If I add !123 to the end of that, it will take essentially forever to break it (16 billion years).These times are based on using a PC to break it. But even if the hackers had an enterprise class computer, it will still take a long long time. Furthermore, if you change your password very often, you will make it next very difficult to hack your password the way the passwords were hacked at the New York Times.

There are ways to get your password that doesn’t requiring stealing and cracking the password database. But you can practically eliminate this way if you take this approach.


Great ways to visualize your quantified self….

Can be found here: Doing beautiful things with self-tracking data « RescueTime Blog.

I thought turning self quantified data like this….


….to be a brilliant idea. But there are numerous brilliant ideas on that blog: well worth a look.

(Thanks to AmritaMathur on twitter for that)

A good rundown on the feuding of social media companies and what it will eventually mean

While this HuffPo piece is about a new service from Vine, Twitter’s ‘Vine’ App Users Can No Longer Find Friends Via Facebook, it also has a great rundown of all the feuding going on between social media companies these days. For example…

(Facebook and Twitter) have been feuding since this summer, when Facebook announced it would buy Instagram for $1 billion despite Twitter’s reported prior offer, supposedly worth $525 million, for the photo-sharing service. Twitter responded to the snub by preventing Instagram users from syncing with their Twitter followers. Facebook followed up by making it impossible for Twitter users to embed Instagram pictures in their tweets.

Twitter and Facebook are certainly not the only feuding tech companies. In August, Craigslist stopped allowing search engines to index user’s ads in order to try to defeat competitors like Craiggers. In early January, Google experimented with blocking Google Maps on Windows phones, although that experiment didn’t take.

I expect alot more of these to go on over the next few years. Eventually there will be winners, but also the social media business will be disrupted and displaced by other technology waves (think: mobile platforms and cloud computing and that the social media companies will no longer be a central/go to place. It will happen: ask AOL and various portal sites left by the side of the road). Until that happens, expect sharing to get harder, not easier.

The use of github for non-programmers is coming (time to learn git)

O’Reilly media is doing something I haven’t seen before: using github as a repository for a book. Github is a famous code repository, and I have seen it extended to include government data. But this sees like a new way to use it. Expect more non-traditional uses of github. In the meantime see:

How farming may have led to the domestication of dogs.

There’s a fascinating study here highlighted in Nature News & Comment that dogs and their domestication may have been a result of farming. Key quote:

Most humans have also evolved to more easily digest starches2. Lindblad-Toh suggests that the rise of farming, beginning around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, led to the adaptations in both species. “This is a striking sign of parallel evolution,” she says. “It really shows how dogs and humans have evolved together to be able to eat starch.”

Another interesting fact is that dogs have a gene that allows them to digest starch, a gene that the wolf does not have.

Well worth a read.

How to combine data analytics to dating sites to find the man of your dreams

Really? Really! Amy Webb was not having much luck (to put it mildly) with dating sites, so she applied her excellent data analytical skills to come up with the best way to redo her profile to find her perfect match. See Hacking the Hyperlinked Heart –, for the details on how she did it. Well worth reading.

Microsoft gets down and dirty with biogas technology

I am not familar with what other companies — including IBM — are doing in this area, but I think this story is impressive: Microsoft Global Foundations Services Blog : Microsoft Recycles Waste to Provide Clean Power for Data Center R&D.

Essentially Microsoft is using manure/poop/call it what you will to deliver power that they use to drive their data centers. I think this is impressive. I hope this solution spreads (no pun intended) to other power users. Kudos to them.

Monday night music: George Benson – Give Me The Night

George Benson used to be huge. And for good reason.

This video is not special, but this song is, to me. Here’s George Benson- Give Me The Night

Amazing! A home made CT scanner

It seems incredible, but you can see the results in the video below.

Details on how Ben Krasnow built the CT Scanner can be found via clicking through.

Even though it is only a chicken, it is amazing to think about it being hacked like this. It also points the way to lower cost scanners.

(Via Tim O’Reilly.)

If all this talk about a trillion dollar coin seems crazy, consider Canada’s Million Dollar coin

Yes, the Royal Canadian Mint has produced a Million Dollar Coin.

There are not many of them (five in all). And “why did the Royal Canadian Mint make the world’s purest and largest gold bullion coin? Because we can.”.

If that’s a good enough reason for a million dollar coin, it should be a good enough reason for a trillion dollar coin. đŸ™‚

If you are reevaluating your career as a New Year’s Resolution….

…then you should read this: The Top Five Career Regrets – Daniel Gulati – Harvard Business Review. What’s the number one regret? I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money.It’s a good article and one anyone looking at their career should read.

Why you shouldn’t open those email attachments you get from people you don’t know

If you are like me, you are getting more and more spam with little in it but a request to open a file. There’s two reasons for this. First, the less text, the more likelihood the spam will get past spam filters. Second, the opening of that file will potentially infect your computer with any number of problems. For example, if you open a PDF file, this page – — PDF Security Issues — describes some of the problems that could occur. Here’s a snippet from that page:

  • Javascript: Adobe Reader (and possibly other readers) contains a Javascript engine similar to the ones used by web browsers, but with a slightly different API to manipulate PDF content dynamically or to control some viewer features. Potentially dangerous features are restricted for obvious security reasons. However, this means that PDF documents are not purely static, and for example some actions may be used to fool a user (popups) or to send e-mails and HTTP requests automatically. Furthermore, experience shows that many recent vulnerabilities have been exploited using Javascript in PDF.
  • Launch actions: a PDF file may launch any command on the operating system, after user confirmation (popup message). Different command lines may be specified for Windows, Unix and Mac. On Windows only, parameters can be provided for the command. Until Adobe Reader 9.3.2, the CVE-2010-1240 vulnerability made it possible to fool users by modifying the text of the popup message. Since Adobe Reader 9.3.3, a blacklist restricts file formats that can be opened, blocking executable files by default (but a way to bypass it has been found, and finally fixed in v9.3.4).
  • Embedded files: a PDF file may contain attached files, which can be extracted and opened from the reader. This trick may be used to hide malicious executables in order to bypass some antivirus and content analysis engines. Fortunately, Adobe Reader refuses to open embedded files if their extension is part of a blacklist, such as EXE, BAT, CMD, etc. However, this blacklist is not perfect and formats such as HTML or Python scripts may be embedded in PDF and launched from Adobe Reader.
  • This is for PDF files. Similar things can happen with other files that can launch actions or embed files.

    If you don’t know the person sending you the email, don’t open the file, even if you are curious. Just delete it.

    My blog on wordpress: 2012 in review

    The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. (Thanks, Helper Monkeys! :))

    Here’s an excerpt:

    19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

    Click here to see the complete report.

    Quentin Tarantino and Henry Louis Gates Jr. talk ‘Django Unchained’ and more…..

    Over at the Root is a superb conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Henry Louis Gates on a wide range of topics, first and foremost being Tarantino’s new film, but also such things as:

    A Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds trilogy? The historical accuracy of the n-word in Django? The unlikely connection between the slavery-themed film and The Birth of a Nation? How Django fits into Hollywood’s overplayed, often offensive white-savior stereotype? You name it, and The Roots editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Quentin Tarantino — whose latest film, Django Unchained, a “postmodern slave-narrative Western,” as Gates describes it, opened on Christmas Day — likely covered it in this exhaustive interview.

    Well worth a look. But note: spoilers. They try to avoid them, but they appear in the interview.

    If you use tools like BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt, you need to read this

    Why? As this article shows:

    In summary, files encrypted with BitLocker, PGP and Truecrypt are safe from this product as long as volumes are opened or mounted and then closed and demounted in an orderly way; doing this destroys the insecure memory dump. For extra safety, hibernation should be disabled.

    In other words, to be safe, prevent as little as possible from being left hanging out in memory.

    Taken from BitLocker, PGP and TrueCrypt encryption weakened by new attack tool –