Robert Vinet

Insatiably Curious

Category: Technology (page 1 of 7)

Blinded by the light » Using a camera flash as a weapon of self defence

It was the perfect practical weapon, I could easily feel the surface of the unit to orient the flash forward in my hand, and there was a manual trigger button that my index finger naturally lined up with.

I would explain in advance to my date that if I squeezed her arm really hard, she should close her eyes until she saw the flash. (You could see the flash through closed eyelids.) But I also realized that she might not get the message in time, so I planned to immediately pull her to safety.

The idea was to incapacitate any aggressor(s) without physically harming them and, at the same time, not allowing them to get close enough to be a real threat. All I had to do was manually point my hand in the general direction of the (maybe) bad guy(s) and squeeze the button while remembering to close my eyes for half a second. No one being hit with an unexpected flash of this magnitude and having night adjusted vision was going to be able to see anything for at least thirty seconds. By then we were back in the bar or in the car and gone.

I only used it once on two guys that were approaching from near my car and calling out, “Hey dude, got a light?”

» Read more of this article by James Speed Hensinger at PetaPixel…

The first rule of self defence is to avoid the confrontation.

But if you must, if you have no other choice, this would be better and safer, in most circumstance. Plus it’s less lethal than firearm. The object should be to stop an attack. Not to kill anyone. It would be legal too, in most, if not every country in the world.

Considering the Google Pixel 4

I’m in the market for a new smartphone. My iPhone SE is fading quickly. Some pixels are dead and the screen has blotches across it. It’s also feeling a bit dated, but I don’t mind the dated look. I don’t have it to impress others. I love it mainly for it’s size. It fits nicely in my front pocket. It fits nicely in my hand.

It’s ridiculous that most smartphones last an average of 2 years or less. Isn’t it? That’s the industry average, and it’s mirrors my experience. I’m sure I’m not the only one to think that’s an absurdly short amount of time for the kind of money they are asking.

So I was looking forward to this week’s Apple event where they were expected to announce the new iPhone 11. But meh – I had a similar reaction last year. The 11 is not much more than an incremental freshened up XR. And most of the honest reviewers seem to agree. Forget the fan boys that love anything with an Apple logo stuck to it. Even with it’s $50 cheaper price tag over last year than last year’s entry model (iPhone sales numbers are dropping and Apple is shifting focus more towards services), it’s still outside the limits of what I think we should be paying for a phone. Those with short memories will have forgotten that last year Apple increased the base price of the base model iPhone by $150.

So I’ve started considering Android again. And I’ve reluctantly started looking at the Google Pixel phones again.

I’m reluctant to go with a another Google product. My previous phone was a Android One Motorola X4. It just stopped working one night, while I was asleep. I wasn’t plugged in. It was sitting on my nightstand. I had used it before going to sleep. It died a couple weeks after the warranted period ended. Before that I owned a couple of Nexus phones. They were all middle of the road phones. So I’m reluctant to buy another Google product.

But the Google Pixel 4 official “leaks” are looking interesting and come hot on the heals of the iPhone 11 announcement. There are a lot of photos and specs of the Google Pixel 4 available over at GenK. (You my need to decipher the Vietnamese with the help of Google Translate, as I did.) Most prior leaks of the Pixel 4 had blurry photos. These are nice shots that show a very interesting phone with very interesting features.

Way back in June, Google themselves tweeted out a photo of the Pixel 4 when the leaks started spilling out.

The leaks have only accelerated, seemingly never ending, and creating a lot of buzz, which is probably what Google was hoping for.

For me, it will come down to price. Right now, through Sept 28, the Pixel 3 is discounted by a whopping $400 in Canada, $300 in the US. That’s nothing to sneeze at, particularly if you are serious about your mobile phone photography and you want the pure Android experience. The Pixel 3 is still one of the best, and at the current discount, it has to be near the top of anyone looking for a mid-range priced phone. This was Google’s flagship smartphone less than a year ago.

But then there’s the Teracube to consider.

Brexit is a mess » Yellowhammer shows what could be coming in only a couple of months

Shortage of medical supplies, food, riots in the streets…

Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, after MPs voted to force its release.

It outlines a series of “reasonable worst case assumptions” for the impact of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the paper confirmed the PM “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it”.

» Read more at the BBC…

John Bolton was either ousted or quit as the US National Security Adviser. Like the White House, he leaves behind a legacy of chaos, dysfunction, and no meaningful accomplishments

The turnover at the White House continues. It’s chaos over there. Who’s left? How many vacancies are there?

Washington Post / WaPo / WaPo / WaPo / WaPo / WaPo (Paywall)

NY Times / NYT / NYT / NYT / NYT

The Daily Beast / TDB

Politico / Politico

Axios / Axios

ABC News / ABC

NBC

Mother Jones

Slate

CNBC

VOX

Los Angeles Times

The Hill

Time

Vanity Fair

Miami Herald

Chicago Sun-Times

Bloomberg

NRA sues the City of San Francisco after city labels it a domestic terrorist organization

The National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Monday against San Francisco after the city passed a resolution declaring the gun rights group a “domestic terrorist organization.”

» Read more at it in the article by Rebecca Falconer at Axios…

I’m happy the NRA is suing San Fran. I hadn’t heard the news until the lawsuit brought light to this valid declaration.

US extracted one of it’s spies from inside Russia in 2017 over fears Trump would expose the covert source to his buddy Putin

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

» CNN has the exclusive on this…

» More at The NY Times » C.I.A. Informant Extracted From Russia Had Sent Secrets to U.S. for Decades

Trump is a national international security threat.

Updated » Apple iPhone Safari Hack that has existed for a couple of years is revealed

Aug 30

Video from SkyNews… The iPhone has been hacked!

Sept 8

This upends pretty much everything we know about iPhone hacking. We believed that it was hard,” respected security expert Bruce Schneier writes on his blog. “We believed that if an exploit was used too frequently, it would be quickly discovered and patched. None of that is true here. This operation used fourteen zero-days exploits. It used them indiscriminately. And it remained undetected for two years.” While I am unlikely to switch to Android, my trust in the privacy and security capability of their devices has eroded.

» If we can’t trust Apple, who can we trust? » Om

More at Michael Tsai, BuzzFeed, John Gruber, TechCrunch, MacRumors, The Verge, Zeynep Tufekci

DMVs are selling your private driver information to thousands of businesses and raking in millions, and you can’t do anything about it

When you give your name and address to the Departments of Motor Vehicles in exchange for a driver’s license, many of those DMVs in the USA are selling your personal information to thousands of businesses. Some have made tens of millions of dollars a year selling your data.

When asked how much the Wisconsin DMV made from selling driver records, a spokesperson wrote in an email “Per these 2018 DMV Facts and Figures, $17,140,914 was collected in FY18 for driver abstract fees.” Examining that document shows that Wisconsin’s revenue for selling driver records has shot up dramatically since 2015, when the sale drew in $1.1 million. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles made $77 million in 2017 by selling data, a local outlet found.

Documents explicitly note that the purpose of selling this data is to bring in revenue.

But there are both real world privacy and security concerns.

“The selling of personally identifying information to third parties is broadly a privacy issue for all and specifically a safety issue for survivors of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking,” Erica Olsen, director of Safety Net at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told Motherboard in an email. “For survivors, their safety may depend on their ability to keep this type of information private.”

And, not only is this somehow all legal, there is no obvious way for you to opt out or control who has access to your personal information!

» More from Joseph Cox at Motherboard / Vice…

WSPR Explained » How radio amateurs transmitting as little as one milliwatt can be heard on the other side of the world

Unlike most of ham radio, this is a one-way mode. Not only is there little expectation anyone will be listening, but there’s even less that the signal would make it back. Radio propagation isn’t always a two-way path.

WSPR’s biggest selling point is you can do it on the cheap. It’s easy to set yourself up for not much more than $100 and often a whole lot less. And, though a ham radio license is needed to transmit, anyone can put up a receiver. And the US ham license test is multiple-choice, all published and online.

» Geoff Fox at Extreme Tech provides a quick overview of WSPR » Weak Signal Propagation Reporting.

Usage Share of Internet Browsers 1996 – 2019

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