I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Posts in technology:

Microsoft Lies Baldly In Response to New Snowden Allegations

Pierluigi Paganini, via Security Affairs :

Edward Snowden has issued new top secret documents demonstrating the intense collaboration between Microsoft and US government, in particular the whistleblower revealed the support received by the NSA that obtained by the company the access to encrypted messages into its products. Microsoft designed specifically backdoor into Outlook.com, Skype, and SkyDrive to allow government agency to spy on online communications.

They’ve flatly denied every single allegation asserted in these new documents. I suppose we can trust them with our data now. And certainly none of the other big tech companies will be caught in a lie, immediately.

DARPA Creates Another Totally Non-Evil Evil Robot

Will Knight writes, for the MIT Technology Review:

The latest innovation from the U.S. Defense Department’s research agency, DARPA, is a humanoid robot called Atlas that looks as if it could’ve walked straight off the set of the latest Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster.

In fact, Atlas is designed to eventually take on some of the most dangerous and high-stakes jobs imaginable, such as tending to a nuclear reactor during a meltdown, shutting off a deep-water oil spill, or helping to put out a raging wildfire. And if Atlas proves itself at such daredevil tasks, then one of its descendants might one day be allowed to do something just as important: help take care of the elderly and infirm.

Actual Truth: This thing will come and kill you, in the night. Just look at this thing, and then look at some of DARPA’s other monstrosities, and try to convince me—with a straight face—that you aren’t terrified.

Russian Intelligence Reverts To Typewriters Due To NSA Surveillance

Miriam Elder writes in The Guardian:

In the wake of the US surveillance scandal revealed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Russia is planning to adopt a foolproof means of avoiding global electronic snooping: by reverting to paper.

The Federal Guard Service (FSO), a powerful body tasked with protecting Russia’s highest-ranking officials, has recently put in an order for 20 Triumph Adler typewriters, the Izvestiya newspaper reported.

Great, so we’re all going to revert to our 1972 selves now because the U.S. government desperately needs to know what sandwich my aunt photographed last night. We live in a shitty, shitty world.

Nokia Is Doing Cool Things With Cameras

From an appropriately skeptical c|net article:

The Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel camera represents an elegant solution to the dilemma of offering an optical zoom capability without a bulky, physical lens. While the PureView camera juts out slightly from the Lumia 1020’s body, it is no where near as cumbersome as the recently unveiled Galaxy S4 Zoom, which does include an actual zoom lens.

I’m glad someone is trying the novel hack of cramming an insane number of pixels into a phone-camera sensor, but it’s too bad Nokia’s the one doing it. They rested on their Symbian laurels while the market moved out from under them, and then they decided they’d go with the operating system that’s in a very distant third place. They probably aren’t going to make it for very much longer.

Apple Cuts iPhone Production, Says Noted Con Artist

Hayley Tsukayama, shoveling B.S. for The Washington Post:

Apple shares took a dip in early trading Tuesday, after an analyst report claimed that the firm is planning to cut production of the iPhone by 20 percent in the second half of the year.

As CNBC reported, analyst Brian Blair of Wedge Partners said in a note that the firm has cut smartphone production by a fifth — planning to make between 90 million and 100 million rather than an original projected range between 115 million to 120 million. The cuts, the report said, include production for the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and as-yet unreleased (and unconfirmed) next generation of the iPhone.

What if I could just lie through my teeth and say that Apple was going to sell zero iPhones next year? The stock would go down, and I could buy it up at a bargain price. Then, when Apple sells 15 bajillion phones back in Reality World, I’d get really rich. Hmm… If only people were stupid enough to fall for my transparent manipulations of both their minds and their markets…

Textastic Code Editor Expands URL Scheme Support

A new version of Textastic was released today for both iPhone and iPad, and among the new features are iCloud syncing and some fairly deep support for the x-callback-url specification. Creating, opening, and appending to files are all supported actions, and a healthy list of parameters allow for all sorts of potential manipulations.

One especially cool usage is detailed at the bottom of the API documentation; it makes it easy to grab a Web page’s source HTML from within Safari–and I suppose it could also be used to receive a server’s error responses for debugging purposes. I can definitely see myself getting a lot of use out of that one feature alone.

Security Hole Found In Dropbox’s Two-Factor Authentication

From a post at Security Affairs:

Few hours ago I was informed that Q-CERT team found a critical vulnerability in DropBox that allows a hacker to bypass the two-factor authentication implemented by the popular file sharing service.

I guess two-factor authentication isn’t inherently more secure.

Handing Out Your HBO GO Password May Land You In Jail

Jenna Wortham writes, for the New York Times, about the growing trend of sharing TV streaming service passwords with friends:

[Last] Sunday afternoon, some friends and I were hanging out in a local bar, talking about what we’d be doing that evening. It turned out that we all had the same plan: to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones. But only one person in our group had a cable television subscription to HBO, where it is shown. The rest of us had a crafty workaround.

If you truly want to protect your property, mightn’t it make more sense simply to come up with an authentication method more advanced than Cold-War-era solutions like passwords? Or–I’m just spitballing here–maybe realize that some of the people “stealing” your shows are the same people who would pay you for them if you would let them?

Media corporations (let’s talk about legislators some other time) still can’t figure out which century this is. I often hear the argument that they are “attached to their entrenched assumptions,” and that they “simply wish to preserve their existing business model,” etc. I understand the desire to stick to something that works–until it quits working. At that point, maybe it’s time to change your approach. I mean, if you’re not a damned idiot.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Local Storage For Web Apps

Here’s a great rundown on the subject, entitled “The Past, Present & Future of Local Storage For Web Applications”; it pretty much lives up to its title. Not only does it get into the technical nitty gritty of how HTML5 local storage works, it also summarizes the history of developers’ efforts to find ways to store bits and bytes of data on a user’s machine.

This is a great source of information for me as I begin to work on…well…something.

Inventor of Computer Mouse Passes Away

From John Markoff’s piece on the death of Douglas C. Englebart for the New York Times :

Then it came to him. In a single stroke he had what might be called a complete vision of the information age. He saw himself sitting in front of a large computer screen full of different symbols, a vision most likely derived from his work on radar consoles while in the Navy after World War II. The screen, he thought, would serve as a display for a workstation that would organize all the information and communications for a given project.

It’s hard to imagine anything that has changed the world more rapidly and more profoundly than the seemingly banal computer mouse. Remember, it changed everything about how humans interact with computers: there were no icons before its introduction–no kind of GUI at all, really. It was all text. Talk about leaving a legacy.

I find it hard to believe sometimes just how far personal computing has come in my short lifetime. When I was a kid, you had to program the computer yourself, and it was connected to a giant cathode ray tube. And now we have jerkwads walking around with computers on their faces. Crazy.