April 2008

This just in: Obama defriends Wright on Facebook!

facebook logoAndy Borowitz breaks the story in the Huffington Post:

In an act that campaign insiders said indicated an irrevocable break with his former pastor, Sen. Barack Obama today de-friended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Facebook.

It looks like all the fears about the divisiveness within the Democratic party are, if anything, understated. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. According to Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod:

“Every day, Rev. Wright was sending Sen. Obama new Facebook applications like ‘What Superhero Are You?’ and ‘What 1980’s Toy Are You?'” Mr. Axelrod said. “After awhile, enough is enough.”

Yeah really.

The One Million Strong for Barack group is reeling over the news. Discussion here.  Thanks to Wintana for posting this — there’s been a disgraceful lack of coverage in the mainstream media.

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Supreme Court Legalizes Voter Suppression

The headline’s from Project Vote’s post on OpenLeft, which also has a great quote from their board member Donna Massey:

The real purpose of strict photo voter ID rules is to make it more difficult for some Americans to vote. It’s the voters who are less likely to vote who are also less likely to have government issued ID, such as young people, the poor, elderly, and Americans of color. A University of Washington study, for example, found that in Indiana 22 percent of African-American voters lack proper identification compared to 16 percent of white voters. Twenty-one percent of voters earning less than $40,000 a year lack the necessary ID compared to just 13 percent of those earning more than $40,000. All Americans have a right to vote, even if they don’t have a photo ID.

SCOTUSblog has the details on the 6-3 decision.

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“9.5 Theses for Technology Policy in the Next Administration”

On the CFP08 blog, Laura DeNardis of the Yale Internet and Society Project writes:

To help shape public debate in this election year, the Information Society Project at Yale Law School recommends the following policy principles – The 9.5 Theses for Technology Policy in the Next Administration

The principles include Privacy, Access, Network Neutrality, Transparency, Culture, Diversity, and Openness.  The intent here is that these are starting points for a discussion; threads between now and CFP will delve into the individual principles, and I’ve already put them up on the wiki to allow for revision.

There’s certainly a lot of good stuff here.  Since at this stage we’re trying to get the conversation started, I’ve instead been focusing on some areas I thought had room for improvement, for example asking in a comment*

why does diversity mention only media concentration, and ignore the general dynamic in which marginalized groups (women, persons of color, those on the wrong side of the digital divide … the list goes on) have been excluded from discussions like these?

It’s an interesting discussion so far; please check it out and join in!

jon

* the actual comment I left there had a few typos as well; I fixed them here.

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Black squirrels on the march!

Seems like it’s kind of a “sucks to be you” situation for the roughly 2 million grey squirrels in the UK — and the 150,000 red squirrels in the Scotland can’t be too happy about it either. Steven Morris has the story in the Guardian

Having usurped the red squirrel in most parts, grey squirrels are now getting a taste of their own medicine from stronger, more aggressive black upstarts….

Geneticist Helen McRobie, who also took part in the study, said reasons for the success of the black squirrel included its more aggressive behaviour.

I for one welcome our new black squirrel overlords. (Was that obsequious enough?)

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Color me impressed …

Flying down to SF last Monday for RSA, I opened up my Macbook and got … nuthin’. Once I landed and plugged it in, and the little green light on the power supply connector didn’t even come on, I realized I was in trouble. So I headed down to the Mac store, conveniently right by the Muni stop, and made an appointment at the “Genius Bar” for that evening.

One of the geniuses in residence verified that his power supply connector light didn’t come on either, checked a couple of things, and asked if he could go in the back to run some tests. Sure, no problem. He came back within 10 minutes and said that seemed like there was some liquid in the display — he had verified that the machine booted, so it wasn’t hopeless. After signing the usual disclaimer in case of data loss (and wondering when was the last time I had backed things up — I’m still on Tiger, so haven’t yet experienced the joys of Time Machine) and authorizing a charge if need be (I hadn’t bought AppleCare), I left my Mac to be shipped off for repairs.

Thursday afternoon, I got a call: my Mac was at the store, I could come pick it up whenever. I Muni’ed back down the store, showed my photo ID, and there was my machine. I booted up to verify, and everything was hunky-dory; Firefox even offered to restore my last session state. Color me impressed.

“This was a really good experience,” I said to the helpful Genius.

“Always glad to hear it! And you’re still under the one-year limited warranty, so there’s no charge.”

Hey, I may be a geek, but I really hate dealing with hardware — or any other kind of machine configuration. Being able to find a place in whatever city I’m visiting on a business trip, talk to somebody knowledgable and competent, and have the right thing happen without me having to put out a lot of effort … that means a lot to me.

I found myself thinking about the arguments that cropped up from time to time on the Litebulb DL at Microsoft, as techie guys went on at great length about how Apple’s emphasis on the retail experience was a sign of weakness and used market share numbers to “prove” how real people (as opposed to the ones in Apple ads) didn’t really care about things like this. The other people at the store, or at the Genius Bar getting Mac, iPhone, and iPod help, seemed pretty real to me.

Sure, I beat Apple up about their security. That’s not the only consideration. I find the usability, responsibility, and attention to design of the Mac experience much more pleasant than Windows; it feels to me like I’m more productive (although when I’ve actually tracked my time, it’s roughly comparable). Throw in stellar support experiences like the one I had …

I hate to say it, but I think I’m now officially a Mac fan.

[And yes, I have now made a current backup. Thanks for reminding me.]

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A bumper crop o’ Slashdot security threads

In RSA: “It feels like something’s missing” earlier this week, I mentioned that I found myself wondering whether what I was seeing at the show responded to security problems as experienced by users. Coincidentally enough, when I checked Slashdot today there were several of interesting security-related threads. So while it’s far from a statistically-valid sample, it’s still agreat chance to ask: is the industry successfully addressing these kinds of problems?

Let’s start with Oklahoma Leaks 10,000 Social Security Numbers, which is by far the most serious single issue:

“By putting SQL queries in the URLs, they not only leaked the personal data of tens of thousands of people, but enabled literally anyone with basic SQL knowledge to put his neighbor/boss/enemies on the sexual offender list.”

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RSA, part 2: static analysis

A continuation of RSA: “It feels like something’s missing”

RSA’s a tough show for static analysis companies, but several were there. Ounce had the largest booth and an excellent message (“listen to your code”); Veracode, Armorize, and Fortify had smaller presence. However, I didn’t actually spend much time at the booths or looking at the details of any specific technology, instead talking with various folks I ran into about the strategic possibilities.

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RSA: “It feels like something’s missing”

The last time I was at the RSA conference/expo in 2004, Bill Gates talked about PREfix and PREfast in his keynote — he even went off and started talking about Microsoft’s acquisition of PREfix! Hard to top that … but it’s a great place for shoozing and to get a feel for the market, so I spent a couple of days hanging out there last week. Unsurprisingly, I was largely thinking about strategies related to static analysis products and technologies, and I’ll cover those in my next post. First, though, I wanted to share my more general impressions.

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A Carnival of Allies

From The Angry Black Woman:

I call a Carnival. The Carnival of Allies. Where self-identified allies write to other people like themselves about why this or that oppression and prejudice is wrong. Why they are allies. Why the usual excuses are not good enough. I figure allies probably know full well all the many and various arguments people throw up to make prejudice and oppression okay. Things that someone on the other side of the fence may not hear. Address those things and more besides.

And when I say allies, I’m talking about any and every type. PoC can be (and should be) allies to other PoC, or to LGBTQ people if they are straight, or any number of other combinations. If you feel like you’re an ally and have something to say about that, you should submit to this carnival.

More, and a submission form, in Allies Talking.  Deadline is May 5, and she’ll be posting the links in the second or third week of May.  It’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, so I’ll almost certainly be writing something … I encourage others to as well.

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A note to my many Muses

Musas dançando com Apolo Baldassare Peruzzii woke up this morning thinking about Muses and realized that i should apologize for the focus of my writing over the last several months.

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Asbestos underwear, fair information principles, and security

Tales from the Net co-author Deborah Pierce’s Into the Lion’s Den — a privacy advocate’s work is never done (on her tribe.net blog) talks about a panel she was just on at ere expo, “the nation’s leading recruiting conference.” She was there for a debate with the CEO of a company whose mission is “to map every business organization on the planet, contact by contact”:

The CEO started by asking how many in the audience had heard of Jigsaw or had used Jigsaw. About half of the people raised their hands. When my turn came, I asked how many people had heard of Fair Information Principles*. There were about a hundred people in the room and about three people raised their hands. With this crowd I wasn’t surprised.

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Strategy, security, and static analysis: what’s next for me

Fourteen years ago today was my last day at Digital Equipment Corporation before leaving to work on the technology today became PREfix and the company I started with a few friends that became Intrinsa, so it seems especially appropriate to post about this today …

coverity logoI’m delighted to announce that I’m starting a part-time strategy consulting gig working with San Francisco-based software engineering startup Coverity. My initial focus will be exploring possibilities in the security space, and I’ll be using techniques like community-driven strategy and design, asset-based thinking, and social network analysis. So it’s a very natural followup to each of my last three professional incarnations: static analysis architect, computer security researcher, and grassroots strategist.

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