Monday, May 7, 2012

In the Air

Working on a project. It is growing and expanding in my head. But as with most projects, there are detractors, deflators, and the dreaded - demographics. Ah - what's in a dream if you don't gain from it? I'm making this thing tangible. I don't know when I'll run out of steam, but I want to see it through to fruition. I'll need help and that's the hard part. Pulling it all together will take time, effort, and a bit-o-cash. Let's hope I'm dreaming too big to fail!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Facebook claims that some of your data is really their intelectual property.

Off the cuff remarks regarding the following article:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111011/12190216306/facebook-says-some-your-personal-data-is-its-trade-secrets-intellectual-property.shtml
Really, my data is their intellectual property. I beg to differ.
I have read through a portion of the Google translation for the original post. I notice that there are a lot of comments saying that since Facebook is free, voluntary, and has a TOS that FB users agree to, one should not complain about Facebook's behavior.
That is flat out wrong. It is a mindless argument filled with pablum phrases. Here is the low down from my perspective. It is about transparency and boundaries, and the lack of meaningful laws.
Facebook declares:
"You are the owner of all content and information that you post on Facebook. In addition, you can use your privacy and application settings to control how that information is exchanged."
This seems to be a false assertion as evidenced by the fact that European users can ask for a copy of the information that Facebook holds concerning oneself, and yet they fail to disclose all that information. Ah, but herein lies the lies. You own what you post but not what they know. You don't actually post any comments when you click a "Like" button. You don't post anything when somebody else tags you in a photo. However, the European Privacy law that Facebook falls under due to its physical presence in Ireland, may not have such restrictive language, as it refers to one's data - not one's posts. Hence, it seems that FB is not being as transparent as the law seems to suggest.
What does that have to do with those who oppose the complaints regarding privacy? I liken it to a used car sales. A technique often employed is called bait and switch. It is founded on deception. Yes we know that FB acquires information and we assume that it is relatively benign info. But we really don't know what's under the hood. The privacy law is supposed to enforce transparency allowing us to make an informed decision as to the benefits and risks. Facebook clearly does not want that transparency.

But how can one make an informed decision if there is so much secrecy? How much data have they surreptitiously acquired about you? Would you be alarmed if there were some half truths or egregious assumptions made about you that were offensive? What if they knew more about you than you could possibly imagine? What if they routinely provide that information, however accurate or precise it may or may not be, to the authorities just for the asking?
So, you don't care what they know or think they know or that they earn money off that data and target marketing towards you that should meet your needs. All well and good. But your laissez-faire attitude need not extend to me. I don't mind them making a buck or two off of some of my data. I don't mind them complying with lawful requests for my data when they receive a warrant or subpoena. But I should be able to know what that data is. It is a matter of boundaries. My boundaries, your boundaries.

Just because they offer a service for free, doesn't allow them to run roughshod over your expectations. Take the used car sales as an analogy. Someone gives you a usable automobile and says it's yours to drive as you please. On the face of it, it's too good too be true. But hey - if you want transportation, why not. It so happens that the car is a GM product that comes with OnStar. You later find out that someone has listened in to your conversations, has logged all your travels, noted that you parked across the street from a message parlor, an adult bookstore and a gay bar. Perhaps they assume you were inclined to obtain services at each place rather than any other activity that could have occurred. They sold your itinerary to a third party and eventually you start getting flooded with solicitations that are inappropriate for your circumstances. Cops pull you over and decide that based on their information you may also be a person of interest and they sort through your smartphone and download all the data contained within. Do you expect to be treated with any dignity by the corporations or authorities? The thing is, I have a right to reasonable privacy and a right from improper search and seizure - from the government. But there are far too few targeted laws at what corporations can get away with. And they can get away with most anything regarding your data as long as its OK by you. But it could effect the price you pay for any kind of insurance, effect your medical benefits, your rights to vote (if you even bother with that), how friends and family perceive you, and for some, even one's very life may be sacrificed for these corporations profits. Then there are the data breaches. What a wonderful storehouse for identity theft victims. One pair of women in Ohio think that they will never be a victim of such a breach and even if they are it won't be much bother. But others who have experienced a loss of their identity have claimed it is very expensive, very labor intensive, very stressful and very long lived. A person's reputation can be utterly destroyed.

It boils down to this, stuff like the aforementioned can and does happen occasionally. Seemingly more often then most folks realize. I would like to limit what data of mine is being exploited. I don't mind trading a little, but I want to know what it is and where it's going. Facebook affirms that it is my data, so I believe they should start acting like it. In essence, it seems to be a breach of contract, if nothing else.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sand In The Nostrils

It seems to me that, one of the issues with music today is that nearly none of the lyrics are politically motivated, save a few misguided country songs about patriotism and bravado. I really miss songs that satirize political figures or call out the governments' bad behaviors. I wonder if there are any musicians left who care enough to sing such songs or if it is the record labels preventing such lyrics from seeing the light of day. It becomes more evident to me that our societies are falling apart at the seems and our infrastructure is in severe need of restoration. It took a youth movement that was either fueled by or reflected in the music of the day to effect the last real changes in our side of world. But that was a long, long time ago. When was the last time you heard a recent, relevant, protest song? Are there any?
Here's an open challenge to established musicians and to all the independents out there: Start writing and performing protest songs relevant to the news of today.
We need a new alphabet song - about the AT&T, CIA, DEA, DHS, DOJ, FBI, ICE, LEO's, MPAA, NSA, RIAA, SCOTUS, TSA, USG, etc. and their poor behaviors as of late.
We need to popularize the idea that there is a real need for changes in our governments, today - now. I think the current systems are broken and corrupted by all recognition.
By the way, the last protest song I remember hearing recently was Above The Law's Freedom Of Speech - as heard in soundtrack from Pump Up The Volume.
I think I really want to hear it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Logitech 750e Outdoor Master Alert Monitor and Command Center

One thing the Logitech 750e isn't short on is video quality, but that's about it.

The Logitech 750e Outdoor Master Alert Monitor and Command Center lacks command and control.

My personal experience so far is that the new 750e and other security cameras in this group from Logitech leaves me wanting.
For starters, these cameras do not have any internal batteries, cannot be used with uninterruptable power supplies, and can't even withstand a power strip.
What good is a security camera that can be shut down so easily?
When I first began doing my initial setup, the Command Center software could not detect my power line devices.
However, I went ahead and connected the three cameras, which all became detectable.
I fiddled with all the settings to get familiar with the software features and that only took a few minutes, as there are so few.
Then I went to mount my cameras.
I did not have one single power outlet outside, that's a minor problem, as the flat Ethernet cable can go through the window for now.
So then one has to mount the power line modems to the wall near an available socket.
Well, I unplugged the surge protector and stereo and plugged in one of the two boxes in the closest outlet.
I mounted the camera and it works - sort of (I'll explain in a moment).
I plugged in another camera near its final resting place, near power and no need to string the Ethernet cable through a window and it also sort of works.
And then the third camera (out of 4, eventually, when the last one gets here) had to go up.
Hmm, now what?
I had to unplug the microwave and its surge protector and plug in the camera’s power line adapter (and mount it) and the router's power line adapter.
Strung the Ethernet cable through another window and screen and mounted the camera and it works - sort of.

Here comes the good part. The video looks as good as any security camera I've seen and better than most.
Even their night-time view is fairly good, if somewhat flawed.
One of the three cameras has a wall and a ceiling in view and they both glow quite brightly from the infrared causing the field of concern to be darker than acceptable.
The other two cameras look good, but all three have the same limitations when it comes to the motion sensors.
The sensors parameters are difficult to adjust, because there aren't sufficient controls.
You get to create a rectangle for the motion detection zone and sensitivity control sliders.
But when the motion sensor triggers, what it triggered on is anybody's guess.
In my case, it was the shadows, the leaves, and even the grass waving.
Less sensitive alert means fewer moment of recording and fewer numbers of alert emails being sent to my phone.
Now, that's a mixed blessing if ever I had one.
Perhaps some of these issues are alleviated with the available firmware, if I could just apply the update, the data won't transfer.

More to the point regarding the video recording, it is inconsistent and uncontrollable.
If the cameras record at all, they seem to only record some random length of time that an alert is being triggered.
I had only moments of time that my cameras were recording when they should have been very actively recording.
I even set the sensitivity to maximum to try and get two of them to record anything, anything at all, to no avail.
So the cameras don't record on a schedule, they may not record on an alert, but you could get alerts all day long, every day, so long as your PC is on and the program is running.

Did you notice that? In order to save any video remote from the cameras themselves, the PC and program must be running.
It would not matter if your PC is on a UPS however, as the cameras won't send any signal.
If you reboot your computer, you lose any video being stored until the program is up and running again, unless you want to unscrew the back of each camera and import any video that might be on the micro-SD card.
The cameras don't have built in HTTPS services, or any FTPS services.
They don't have internal rechargeable batteries and they don't have Wi-Fi capabilities.
But they can be used with a POE Router or switch (got cash to burn?).

In fact, here are some other features that I think should be included in a security camera and software package that calls itself a Command Center:

Camera Overlay: Color (has), element corners (has), Date/Time Stamp on the video itself
Motion Detection: Polygon Zones, Alerting Item Indicator, such as an oval around the moving object, and the ability to adjust the size of an item that can cause an alert, like a small animal filter.
Schedules: Alert Time Filter, to schedule alerts on or off during certain hours. Manual Recording override, to record continuously or not record at all.
Recording Compression Adjustments: With the ability to record 24x7x365 one might want to compress a little.
Record Before/After Adjustment: Once an Alert is triggered, you should be able to say you always want X-Minutes before and X-Minutes after the trigger to remain recorded (since there is an onboard memory chip, this should be do-able)
FTP settings: The cameras should be able to store recordings to a NAS, send it via FTP/FTPS
HTTP Settings: The cameras should be able to server their video straight to a browser with encryption available (and defaulted)
Mac Compatibility

I would love to be able to say that the Logitech 750e Outdoor Master Security System was a good buy.
It isn't even an Eighty Percent-er product.
It isn't even half way there.
It is as immature as some news anchors - looks good, but there's not much between the ears.
Some of these features could be added by a firmware update to the cameras perhaps (if I could just transfer the data to the cameras).
Some of these features are already in other software packages and hence the software is sophomoric at best.
Most of this functionality should be included in my DVR or my Media Center, or the Apple iTV, or the ROKU+.
My point is that good security camera systems shouldn't be so difficult to come by, especially when one is paying these high retail prices.
These are IP cameras that can’t be used like any other IP camera.
These are security cameras that don't emanate security.
These are simple cameras that are featureless and anemic.
These are expensive toys, at the moment.
I expected better from Logitech.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Background Check

It is difficult to predict when one may become part of an ongoing investigation regarding some pet peeve of some self-righteous LEO or USG Agency. That being said, writing passionate email to ones' congressman with an unfavorable opinions and less then respectful language won't help one maintain their own anonymity.

However, Congressman Dan Lungren doesn't seem to be aware of all the evidence, is ignoring it or is in denial of it. However, EFF has recently posted nearly nine thousand pages of government documents to their site.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/03/EFF-Lets-the-Sun-Shine-In

EPIC.org has also chronicled much of the same or similar information.

I don't know how others define patriotism, but what ever your view on it is, it should not include the subversion of the principles of the Constitution and its deliberate use of plain, layman's English. The founding fathers of this country forewarned of us these tyrannies befalling us these days and too few are taking notice or understanding the long-term impact on our freedoms.

The Seven Nations Indians endeavor to consider the impact down to their 7th generation (a coincidence with the number of tribes versus the number of generations). I am not a chess player and have difficulty seeing so far in advance, but it seems nobody is looking beyond their own noses.

Can this change? Well, it won't change because I've ranted. It will only change when enough people are directly and egregiously effected personally, monetarily or physically. But then, it may be too late.

I hope more people take an effort sooner rather than later to express their concerns in a meaningful and passionate way. Perhaps, that's nothing more than a pipe-dream.

My belated response to Congressman Dan Lungren

Sir,

you seem to erroneously state that there isn't any evidence of abuse by government agencies with respect to the Patriot Act and other current laws (and possibly Executive Orders) passed by Congress as a result of fear and ignorance.

However, the timely folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation found what I had been looking for.

https://www.eff.org/foia/intelligence-agencies-misconduct
https://www.eff.org/issues/foia/07656JDB

Aside from reports that FBI agents cheated on the tests designed to ensure that they know how to use these tools legally, there have been several credible reports from reputable news agencies and blogs affirming their misconduct.

Suffice it to say that I whole heartedly disagree that you can provide for my safety by annulling my Constitutional rights. Six years and six months, I upheld my oaths while serving in the US Air Force. The Gadsden flag is for me one of the most honorable flags and "Give me liberty or give me death" is one of the most honorable quotes. What has been your inspiration for serving the American citizens, perhaps, In Halliburton I Trust or Give Me Black Water Or Give Me Xe Services LLC?

The U.S. law enforcement agencies you are promoting do not need more intelligence toys, more legal wiggling room, or more oppressive laws. What they need is to start acting more intelligently, asking more intelligent questions, using old school first hand face to face information. They need to stop accumulating hay and straw to sift through to find the needles. They just need to focus on the needle - not the haystack. It is criminal to allow them to spy on every American citizen for their paranoid witch hunts.

The U.S. law enforcement agencies have become the terrorist. TSA, DEA, ICE, FBI, DHS - have become violent, coercive, villains destroying individual's properties, freedoms and rights that were once guaranteed by our Constitution. These agencies have lied to America, they have lied to Congress and they have double-crossed the world.

The 10th amendment of the US Constitution has been all but abolished, along with the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments.

It is high time to start cleaning house and returning to being honorable people of integrity, governing on behalf of the good citizens of this country.

Please re-evaluate your stance and do what is right, not for the corporations, the self-expanding bureaucracies, your bank account, but for the citizens, their children, the people - for a nice change of pace.

Thank you for your continued efforts to do what is right and honorable in supporting your oath to stand up for principles of the Constitution of the United States of America - for liberty - for justice - with integrity (not fear) and openness.

Rojer W. Wisner

Congressman Lungren On the Patriot Act

I had sent a letter to the Congressman urging him to support the sunset clauses of the Patriot act, allowing those provisions to expire. Here is his response.

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the PATRIOT Act. I appreciate hearing of your views.

On February 28, 2011 three core provisions of the PATRIOT Act would have expired—roving wiretaps where multiple phones are used, the so-called business records provision, and the lone wolf provision concerning terrorists not connected with a specific country or group. I would point out that I authored the original sunset provision in the House version of the Act because it is my belief that Congressional oversight and review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a solemn responsibility.

The primary responsibility of government is to protect the American people from attack. The Times Square bomber, Christmas Day bomber, and Fort Hood shooter are further evidence that there are those who remain committed to killing innocent Americans. The PATRIOT Act provisions are essential to reaching those actors who are agents of a foreign power or foreign terrorist organization who would use the open nature of our society to plot against innocents within our country. Our intelligence community must be given the same tools which law enforcement has had for years in order to stop terrorist plots before they are allowed to develop. Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert with the Rand Corporation puts it well:

In the terror attacks since 9-11 we have seen combinations of local conspiracies inspired by, assisted by, and guided by al Qaeda's central leadership...It is essential that while protecting the basic rights of American citizens, we find ways to facilitate the collection and exchange of intelligence across national and bureaucratic borders.

It is my view that while Congressional oversight of the PATRIOT Act should be vigorous and regular. In a hearing on the three provisions set to expire, there was no evidence of abuse. In fact, the only evidence of a problem arose from a General Accountability Office Report concerning National Security Letters (NSL's) on one occasion. Ironically, NSL's did not originate with the PATRIOT Act and have no bearing on any of the expiring provisions under consideration.

In light of the fact that the threat against our people continues, the Obama Administration was right to ask for reauthorization of the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Although we must be diligent to ensure that the civil liberties of Americans are secure, the first such liberty is not to be killed. "The choice between security and liberty is a false choice, as nothing is more likely to endanger America's liberties than the success of a terrorist attack at home."

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views with me.

If you would like to stay informed about federal legislation introduced in the 112th Congress, as well as local issues that may interest you, please take a moment to subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter at www.lungren.house.gov.

I look forward to discussing this or any other issue affecting our 3rd Congressional District with you in the future. For upcoming Town Hall meetings, or for information on issues or legislation pending before Congress, please visit my website at www.lungren.house.gov. If you need assistance with a federal agency, please call my Gold River office at (916) 859-9906. My staff and I are always available to address your concerns, answer your questions, and listen to your ideas.



Sincerely,

Daniel E. Lungren
Member of Congress

Note: Please do not respond directly to this e-mail. To better serve the constituents of the Third District I have established a Feedback Form on my website. If you wish to contact me with any concerns, I would ask that you please utilize the following link and I will respond shortly (https://forms.house.gov/lungren/forms/email.shtml).