Recently in Geekdom Category

Candidate Biden - the bionic man?

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Putting two and two together - a two-fer.

From Vanderleun:

“Demented? There’s an App For That” — Joe Biden’s Bone Phone?
I’m not sure I agree with this. It reeks of techno-conspiracy. At the same time, I’m going to be watching Biden’s hands and pockets more carefully. And I will be especially on the lookout during the debate for the absence of middle-shots when Biden’s answering.  I’ll also note, as will most of America, Biden’s wearing or not-wearing of the Sharia mask. — GV

From Thread by @COsweda on Thread Reader

She’s correct that Biden has an earpiece, but it’s MUCH MORE than that.

The proof is his slack, confused, frightened face before he begins getting the answers through his earpiece.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Biden always REACHES INTO HIS POCKET before he answers certain questions.

Into the pocket.

What’s he doing?

He’s activating a fully implanted, invisible receiver that uses BONE CONDUCTION to get messages.

My guess is the switch also reduces ambient noise so that he can concentrate on the spoken instruction.
Remember when Biden totally disappeared?

He was having something like THIS implanted.

The remarkable Esteem® Hearing Implant is designed to provide qualified candidates with a unique combination of real-world benefits. The Esteem is: An INVISIBLE Solution — You don’t just hear better. You look and feel better. There are no external components. And nothing is in your ear canal.” ***

Second: Atomic Fungus read this and riffs on it here:

Technologically possible, but we will never know if it's true. The thing is, when you install a cochlear implant, it wrecks any natural function that the cochlea had. If this is true, some surgeon out there violated his Hippocratic oath for, presumably, a lot of money. (Or maybe just to avoid having his predilection for little boys become public knowledge or pick your scandal.)

In someone who has gone deaf, it doesn't really matter. Rush Limbaugh, for example, has a cochlear implant because he went entirely deaf and there was no chance of restoring his hearing any other way; and as a radio celebrity he needs to be able to hear himself talk. (One side effect of going deaf is that your speech slowly becomes mangled until you slur more than you say.)

But in someone who has two fully functioning ears, and who is merely being propped up in order to run for a political office for which he is unfit to carry out the requisite duties?

As cynical as I have become in my middle age, I am still slightly aghast that they'd do this kind of thing. Only slightly: there is a few moments of "Holy shit, that's evil" and then I realize, Yes, but these are the DEMOCRATS we're talking about.

Performing unecessary surgery on a confused, helpless old man and rendering him half-deaf, solely so they can prop him up in hopes of winning an election?

So I looked at the linked material in depth and it looks like this is just a subcutaneous hearing aid: it doesn't replace the cochlea, so it looks like it doesn't render you deaf in that ear after all. Even so, it's not necessary (as far as I know Biden's got good hearing) and was only implanted so he could be given instructions by someone off-scene. Unethical verging on evil.

It goes further than that, though. "Campaign activities" for the Biden campaign have been "curtailed" as early as 9:30 AM in recent days. Everyone knows it's because Biden is having a "bad day"--which is to say, a day when he's too confused to make sense--but the consistency of it looks like his handlers may be trying to slew his circadian rhythm around so that "sundown" for him is midnight instead of the middle of the evening. The idea being that he'll be "on" when it's debate time and that much less likely to go haywire.

"Sundowning" is something that happens with dementia patients. They seem more-or-less normal during the day, but once they hit the evening their mentation falls apart, or gets lots worse. Since the debates are typically held in the later evening, Biden's circadian rhythm needs to be adjusted (if possible) so that he "sundowns" some time after they're over, rather than before.

When I think about what Biden's life must be like right now--well, if it were a nursing home doing all this to him, its management would be hauled away in handcuffs.

Heh - I bet that the frequencies used for these devices are fairly common knowledge and I can only imagine what would happen if someone brought in a small jammer to the debates.

Running into an old friend

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We drove around the city of Anacortes for a while before our scheduled appointment for the van and I drove along the waterfront.  It is very much a working waterfront with large shipyards and I saw this:

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Lisa took the photo (she is also into photography).  Readers may know that I majored in Marine Biology and Physical Oceanography at Boston University many eons ago.  I dropped out when I discovered that there was no money in it - everyone else ALSO wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. Fortunately, the whole personal computer thing was starting to erupt so went over to that and did OK.

Was never on this ship (did visit one of her sister ships - the Thomas Thompson at UW several times) but spent a few months down at WHOI for a class and absolutely loved it.  These are my roots and part of why I love living at the ocean's edge these days.

Her homepage at WHOI: Atlantis She is in Anacortes through December for overhaul and repair.

From Mental Floss:

14 Facts About International Talk Like A Pirate Day
Ahoy, me hearties! As many of you know, September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, an annual phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm, having been observed by every continent, the International Space Station, and even the Oval Office since it first made headlines back in 2002. So let’s hoist the Jolly Roger, break out the rum, and take a look back at the holiday’s timber-shivering history.

Some fun stuff for a fun holliday. Celebrated for 18 years now.

Goings on at Facebook

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Now this is a bit unnerving - but not unexpected. From Buzzfeed:

“I Have Blood on My Hands”: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation
Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them.

“In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions,” wrote Zhang, who declined to talk to BuzzFeed News. Her LinkedIn profile said she “worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team” and dealt with “bots influencing elections and the like.”

A lot more at the site - they need to be broken up. Too big and too powerful.

Couple that with the Andrew Sullivan post earlier and you can see the problem we are facing.

Really cute idea

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So true - the internet

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Investing in the future

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Very good move - from Tech Crunch:

White House announces $1B investment for AI and quantum computing hubs
Building out its previous commitment, the White House is announcing a $1 billion investment into two of tech’s most promising frontiers, AI and quantum computing.

Last year, the Trump administration rolled out an executive order on AI declaring its intention to bolster U.S. dominance in the field, but the order didn’t address much in the way of funding its plans. This February, the Trump administration called for more than two billion dollars to be invested in non-defense AI and quantum research by 2022.

Excellent - these are two areas where you can not develop new technologies in a garage somewhere - a large investment needs to be made. The rewards will be huge.

So... If the Wuhan Flu doesn't get us, the nanobots and Skynet will. I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Absolutely spot on - so much cruft on the internet. From Assistant Village Idiot:

Douglas2's Law
Frequent AVI commenter Unknown/Douglas2 weighed in over at a post of James's at I Don't Know, But...

I liked it well enough to reprint it.

I've even postulated versions of "Douglas2's Law", which are:
a) if you can't get to primary sources within 3 clicks of hyperlinks (such as to a transcript or video of the talk or interview, the actual court decision, or the journal precis of the scientific paper), they are intentionally lying to you.
b) sensational articles will include links but trust that very few of their readers will actually click and read what is linked, as it nearly always contains the refutation of their headline claim.

I always follow the breadcrumbs back to the primary sources. Got to do that. Anything else is just clickbait and we all love clickbait. (the ascended master: here and here)

Great idea for a weathervane

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Going to change to a different design but definitely too good of an idea not to swipe:

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There is quite the history of logging on the island during the 1900's - a major industry. This whole area is very focused on timber - still a lot of activity where I used to live near Mt. Baker. The early loggers used to call this place Crow Island and it is from this that I got the new name for my blacksmithing business: Crow Island Forge

An interesting bit of word-play

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On our presumptive VPs name - from Google Translate:

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The new trailer - Pee Wee Park

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The horror. From the creative people at Pixel Riot:

Watching some of their other work - fun stuff.

How to make

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A blockbuster movie trailer - from Auralnauts:

More at their channel: Auralnauts

Darktable update

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I had been a faithful user of Adobe products up to a few years ago. Photoshop became too bloated for my tastes - trying to be everything to everyone. I was a faithful user of Lightroom - this is their photo organizer and "developer" program. Wonderful for sorting incoming images into categories, indexing them, making overall corrections for color balance, lighting, etc... Then, Adobe went to the subscription model. You did not purchase a license to own, you "rented" the software and if you did not want to keep renting it, it went away.

Darktable is an excellent substitute for Lightroom and it is Open Source and free. While working on some images today, noticed that they came out with a major upgrade and it is really good. Rico has the details (12 minute YouTube). Digital Photography Review has a nice writeup.

For image editing, I use Skylum's Luminar - it's a commercial product but only $70 and you own it forever.

A cool tool - Bullseye Bore

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Attaches to your drill - makes sure you are drilling straight and square: Bullseye Bore

Does not seem to be in stores yet but I would buy one for $40. Looks very handy.

Hackers will hack.

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Love it!  The kid who did the big Twitter hack hacked his bond hearing. From Vice-Motherboard:

Twitter Hack Zoom Court Hearing Interrupted by Ass-Eating Porn Video
A judge was forced to suspend the virtual bond hearing of the 17-year-old accused of being the “mastermind” behind the recent massive Twitter hack, after several people got into the Zoom meeting posing as CNN and BBC staffers and played loud music and even a porn video.  Multiple reporters who attended the hearing via Zoom on Wednesday confirmed the incident.

According to independent security journalist Brian Krebs, the problem was that the judge and his clerks did not set up the meeting in a way that would mute attendees and prevent them from taking over the screen (these are features that can be easily set when one creates a Zoom meeting).

Love it. If you are going to hack - go big or go home. This was Graham's résumé and he is going to have a long and prosperous career doing internet security if he so desires.

Great line

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Was watching the latest from the CrafsMan SteadyCraftin. He was surprised at how well a mold came out and he said:

Well. Dip me in shellac and call me glossy

Cute.

President Trump's 404 page

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When someone navigates to a website and types in a URL for a page that does not exist on the site (spelling error, expired page, etc...), the web server will issue an HTTP error code 404. The web designer can creat a generic page to inform the user of their error and to point them to a directory or back to the home page. Sometimes, they can be really cute or funny. Amazon, Google

Check out the 404 page for Donald J Trump:

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Talk about comedy gold...

From our President:

No more having to pay the Russians to lift us up there.

Ho. Li. Crap. - fast camera

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High speed photography has always intrigued me. The price on the cameras has been coming down steadily - decent high-speed video cameras are now about $3-5K. When they hit $1K, I will be placing an order. These will shoot video at around 1000+ frames per second with decent (HD) resolution. Chronos and edgertronic are the two main players in this market. There are the bleeding edge cameras from Phantom and Photron that can do 40K/second up to 120K/second but these puppies start at around $40,000 and quickly go up in price.

And then, there is this announcement from the Swiss mega-university / research facility École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

MegaX, the first camera to capture the smallest particles of light
“It’s something I’d been dreaming of for a long time,” says Edoardo Charbon, an EPFL professor and head of the Advanced Quantum Architecture Laboratory in EPFL’s School of Engineering. “MegaX is the culmination of over 15 years of research on single photon avalanche diodes (SPADs), which are photodetectors used in next-generation image-sensor technology.” And Charbon has good reason to be proud, since he and his research team have developed the world’s first million-pixel camera. Their findings have just been published in Optica.

A shooting star
What makes their camera different is that it can capture and count the very smallest form of light particle: the photon. Photons are invisible to the human eye; we can see only continuous beams of photons, like those used in laser pointers. But MegaX can film the trajectories of individual photons in rays of light. When shown in video form, they look like shooting stars. “We had to slow the film speed by a factor of 300 million to see individual photons move,” says Charbon.

And, they have video:

My inner geek is all a-twitter with the possibilities. When I was going to school in Boston, I started working at the local public aquarium there and Doc Edgerton was one of the trustees and came around to explore frequently. I got to know him and he loaned me some of his strobe lights as I have always been into photography. He developed the modern photoflash and pioneered many techniques for high-speed photography. Always had this wonderful twinkle in his eyes - he loved what he was doing.

Simple, easy and clever

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Just the thing for the times that I have to visit Seattle:

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Great idea for a COVID mask too...

For a short while, Google was blacklisting a number of conservative websites. This has been completely documented at various places and Google publicly apologized for it. An interesting (and ominous) thought at The Federalist:

Google Appears To Test Its Ability To Blacklist Conservative Media Ahead Of Election
Google appeared to test its ability to blacklist conservative media Tuesday from its monopolized search engine which garners at least 3.5 billion online searches everyday making up 94 percent of the internet’s search share.

Websites targeted, according to NewsBusters which itself was temporarily de-platformed, included the Washington Free Beacon, The Blaze, Townhall, The Daily Wire, PragerU, LifeNews, Project Veritas, Judicial Watch, The Resurgent, Breitbart, the Media Research Center, and CNSNews among others.

Chuck Ross, a reporter with the Daily Caller News Foundation discovered that his outlet was also included in Google’s Tuesday blackout when searching for stories related to Stefan Halper, an FBI informant who spied on the Trump campaign over the course of Crossfire Hurricane and was unmasked by Ross at the Caller.

And Google's explanation:

“Today we became aware of an issue that impacted some navigational and site: operator queries. We investigated and have since fixed the issue,” said a Google spokesperson. “This affected a number of sites representing a range of different content and viewpoints. This issue was a technical error unrelated to the content or ideology of the sites affected.”

The author's thesis is chilling - was this a dry run for the upcoming election? Sure could be.

Crap like this is why I have been using DuckDuckGo as my search engine and Brave as my browser. Both are free in every single sense of the word.

Yikes - now Beijing is admitting it

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From Asia Times:

Three Gorges Dam deformed but safe, say operators
In a rare revelation, Beijing has admitted that its 2.4-kilometer Three Gorges Dam spanning the Yangtze River in Hubei province “deformed slightly” after record flooding.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted the operator of the the world’s largest hydroelectric gravity dam as saying that some nonstructural, peripheral parts of the dam had buckled.

The dam was a pet project of the late Premier Li Peng and a monumental pride of the nation when it blocked and diverted Asia’s largest river in 1997.

The deformation occurred last Saturday when the flood from western provinces including Sichuan and Chongqing along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River peaked at a record-setting 61,000 cubic meters per second, according to China Three Gorges Corporation, a state-owned enterprise that manages the dam and the sprawling power plant underneath it.

The company noted that parts of the dam had “deformed slightly,” displacing some external structures, and seepage into the main outlet walls had also been reported throughout the 18 hours on Saturday and Sunday when water was discharged though its outlets.

Well -  it IS made in china after all...

Here is the instructional video:

From Squirrel Monkey - they have nailed the 80's computer vibe perfectly

Pecos Hank - storm chasing

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Earlier, I had mentioned that my two favorite storm chasers are Mike Olbinski and Pecos Hank. Ran into this video that Hank did six years ago when he was feeling a little less than serious. Love the ancient VHS camcorder they are 'using' - got to be 25 years old at least:

Heh - software updates

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So true:

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A fun sale to my North - dinosaurs

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From The Vancouver Sun:

Travelling animatronic dinosaur exhibit going under the hammer in Langley next month
Don’t be surprised if you spot a 72-foot roaring brontosaurus, a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex or a fearsome velociraptor outside a Metro Vancouver home or business over the next few months.

On Aug. 6, Langley’s Able Auctions will be selling an enormous animatronic dinosaur and fossil collection that was at one point part of an international touring exhibition.

“There’s just about every type of dinosaur,” said Jeremy Dodd, CEO of Able Auctions. “We also have a whole pile of authentic and original fossils and all the equipment that’s related to putting on a show like this.”

Dodd said there were between 70 and 80 of the animatronic dinos, which move and make sounds.

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Do not have room for a full Tyrannosaurus but maybe a smaller one would be nice to greet the tourists as they scream along our 35MPH country road at double the limit.

Some of the other stuff is gorgeous - nice fossils. Auction site.

Quite the auction closing in a few days at Christie's:

Eureka! Scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century
Eureka! is a journey through the scientific and technological breakthroughs that have formed the modern world, and the brilliant minds that lay behind them. Browse and bid on Edison’s designs for the lightbulb, a World War 2 Enigma Machine, property from the estate of the late Professor Stephen Hawking, or the Nobel Prize medal awarded for the invention of IVF.

My choice would be these: Tesla patents : an archive of inventive genius

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
Collection of 50 original patents. Washington DC: Norris-Peters Co. for the USPTO, 1886-1914. In a modern black morocco-backed cloth clamshell box.

Fifty separate patents, each of 3-7 pages with at least one drawing with schematics. The vast majority has an annotated note in a contemporary hand on the front blank leaf indicating the patent holder (Tesla), the patent number, and often the date the application was filed, date of issuance and date of expiration. Some have underlining in the text.

An extraordinary collection of Tesla’s patents, including those for the invention of radio (disputed by Marconi), the ‘Tesla coil’ and power transmissions systems, remote-controlled devices, AC motors, generators, incandescent and arc-lighting, transformers, and many others.

These are the original copies sent from the US Patent Office back to Tesla's attorneys. Tesla's patent for the invention of radio was upheld by the United States Supreme Court - Tesla publically demonstrated working radio several years before Marconi ever sent the dots across the Atlantic Ocean.

So true

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From Chris Lynch:

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Google should be ashamed of themselves...

I have signed up for email from a Conservative alternative to WA State's current Governor. I use gmail for my email. Every single email from this candidate that comes in, gets automatically put into the gmail SPAM folder. Every. Single. One.

This is despite my flagging   Every. Single. One.  and telling gmail that this is not SPAM.

Today's example:

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This is blatant tampering with my email. Political bias of the worst order. I emailed the campaign but have not heard back from them as yet. Here is my post from the last time this happened.

Dennis Ritchie - a fun story

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Dennis Ritchie? One of the underlying gods of modern computing - he was instrumental in developing the first practical operating system (UNIX) as well as the programming language (C) that accounts for over 80% of all software development - Unix, Linux, Windows and Mac operating systems were written in it. The story of his PhD dissertation is a fun one and typically Dennis.
From the Computer History Museum:

DISCOVERING DENNIS RITCHIE’S LOST DISSERTATION
Many of you, dear readers, will have heard of Dennis Ritchie. In the late 1960s, he left graduate studies in applied mathematics at Harvard for a position at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he spent the entirety of his career. Not long after joining the Labs, Ritchie linked arms with Ken Thompson in efforts that would create a fundamental dyad of the digital world that followed: the operating system Unix and the programming language C. Thompson led the development of the system, while Ritchie was lead in the creation of C, in which Thompson rewrote Unix. In time, Unix became the basis for most of the operating systems on which our digital world is built, while C became—and remains—one of the most popular languages for creating the software that animates this world.

On Ritchie’s personal web pages at the Labs (still maintained by Nokia, the current owner), he writes with characteristic dry deprecation of his educational journey into computing:

“I . . . received Bachelor’s and advanced degrees from Harvard University, where as an undergraduate I concentrated in Physics and as a graduate student in Applied Mathematics . . . The subject of my 1968 doctoral thesis was subrecursive hierarchies of functions. My undergraduate experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be a physicist, and that computers were quite neat. My graduate school experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be an expert in the theory of algorithms and also that I liked procedural languages better than functional ones.”

Whatever the actual merits of these self-evaluations, his path certainly did lead him into a field and an environment in which he made extraordinary contributions.

Thus begins a fun read and a wonderful insight into the mind of one of the smarter people to ever walk the face of this Earth.

Well crap - RIP Grant Imahara

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2020 is just being a real prick of a year - from The Hollywood Reporter:

Grant Imahara, Host of 'MythBusters' and 'White Rabbit Project,' Dies at 49
Imahara died suddenly following a brain aneurysm, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. "We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant. He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family," a representative for Discovery said in a statement on Monday.

An electrical engineer and roboticist by training, he joined Discovery's MythBusters in its third season, replacing Scottie Chapman and was with the show until 2014 when he left with co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci. The trio would reunite in 2016 for Netflix's White Rabbit Project which lasted for one season. On MythBusters, Imahara used his technical expertise to design and build robots for the show and also operated the computers and electronics needed to test myths. 

While part of the Mythbusters team, he sky-dived and drove stunt cars, on film sets he came into contact with some of the most iconic characters in screen history, installing lights onto Star Wars' R2-D2, creating the robot Geoff Peterson for The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and working on the Energizer Bunny.

Had not heard of The White Rabbit Project - will have to watch it. 49 is way too young to go.

And another item in my SPAM folder. This is getting disgusting - Google? Your bias is a little too blatant for my tastes.

Every single email from Joshua Freed to my gmail account has been put into my SPAM folder and not my inbox.

Message in folder:

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Message opened:

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Every single time I hit the Report not spam button and it gets automatically moved to my inbox but every subsequent email I get arrives in my SPAM folder. Someone who routinely deletes the contents of their folder would never get the emails even though they subscribed to Joshua's list.

I mentioned that here on July 9th: Interesting - Google, gMail and SPAM This has happened several times since then and I am now planning to take a screen cap as well as a dump of the message header and forward these on to the Freed campaign. This is out and out tampering with the mail.

Industrial sewing machines for sale

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For anyone looking to get one, there is an auction in Portland, Oregon with several hundred large industrial sewing machines up for bid. Here is the listing: NEWPORT LAYTON - DAY 1 - ONLINE ONLY. The auction is online only. There is only one day for physical preview: Wednesday, July 15th and the auction ends that following day on the 16th. All items sold where-is, as-is so no gripes if you did not look at it first.

The company made bed pillows - there are a lot of other things being sold. Very large work tables, fabric handling equipment, label printers, shipping and receiving equipment, pallet racking and warehouse stuff (hand trucks, pallet jacks, etc...), tools, repair parts, spares. 

2,300 items the first day and 810 items the second day (raw fabric, finished pillows and bedding)

If you know anyone in the Pacific Northwest that might be interested, this kind of sale does not come around every day...

Awww cute

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An interesting project - GPR

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Was talking with a friend earlier and we got on to local island archaeology and Ground Penetrating Radar. These radar sets that operate at lower than usual frequencies as moisture and minerals in the soil will greatly attenuate radio waves - the higher the frequency, the greater the attenuation. They are used to determine sub-surface structure of the soil as well as to locate utility lines and buried items.

Commercial units sell in the ten+ thousand dollar range. I was wondering if anyone had built their own. Quite a few have.

Here is an excellent presentation from a 2017 conference in Poland. They were using COTS parts and an embedded microprocessor and it cost about $600. There has been a renaissance in Software Defined Radios in the last five years so I am betting that the sensitivity could be brought up quite a lot and the cost brought down even more. This would be a perfect application for a Raspberry Pi.

For visualization, this software

PFMABE SOFTWARE
Welcome to the Pure File Magic Area Based Editor (PFMABE). Now view and edit your hydro, bathy and topo data in 3D. Under development by the Naval Oceanographic Office since 1998, this powerful data editing suite ingests most major sonar and lidar data types and allows for quick and easy analysis, cleaning and quality control.

That presentation looks to be the best place to start - might be a fun project for this coming winter...

Software development - two memes

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Kim DuToit has a bunch of them today - here are two that caught my eye:

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I know the first one all too well - a simple "correction" can introduce a world of hurt at time.

China is asshoe - proven yet again by this story at Bored Panda:

Guy Who Reverse-Engineered TikTok Reveals The Scary Things He Learned, Advises People To Stay Away From It
Facebook got itself into a sensitive data scandal when it did shady business with Cambridge Analytica, Instagram confirmed a security issue exposing user accounts and phone numbers, but these apps are basically online security havens compared to TikTok, according to one senior software engineer with about 15 years of professional experience.

2 months ago, Reddit user bangorlol made a comment in a discussion about TikTok. Bangorlol claimed to have successfully reverse-engineered it and shared what he learned about the Chinese video-sharing social networking service. Basically, he strongly recommended that people never use the app again, warning about its intrusive user tracking and other issues. Considering that TikTok was the 4th most popular free iPhone app download in 2019, this is quite alarming.

The amount of data they are gathering is stunning - here are just the major points:

So I can personally weigh in on this. I reverse-engineered the app, and feel confident in stating that I have a very strong understanding for how the app operates (or at least operated as of a few months ago).

TikTok is a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network. If there is an API to get information on you, your contacts, or your device... well, they're using it.

    • Phone hardware (cpu type, number of course, hardware ids, screen dimensions, dpi, memory usage, disk space, etc)
    • Other apps you have installed (I've even seen some I've deleted show up in their analytics payload - maybe using as cached value?)
    • Everything network-related (ip, local ip, router mac, your mac, wifi access point name)
    • Whether or not you're rooted/jailbroken
    • Some variants of the app had GPS pinging enabled at the time, roughly once every 30 seconds - this is enabled by default if you ever location-tag a post IIRC
    • They set up a local proxy server on your device for "transcoding media", but that can be abused very easily as it has zero authentication

The scariest part of all of this is that much of the logging they're doing is remotely configurable, and unless you reverse every single one of their native libraries (have fun reading all of that assembly, assuming you can get past their customized fork of OLLVM!!!) and manually inspect every single obfuscated function. They have several different protections in place to prevent you from reversing or debugging the app as well. App behavior changes slightly if they know you're trying to figure out what they're doing. There's also a few snippets of code on the Android version that allows for the downloading of a remote zip file, unzipping it, and executing said binary. There is zero reason a mobile app would need this functionality legitimately.

On top of all of the above, they weren't even using HTTPS for the longest time. They leaked users' email addresses in their HTTP REST API, as well as their secondary emails used for password resets. Don't forget about users' real names and birthdays, too. It was allllll publicly viewable a few months ago if you MITM'd the application.

Much much more at the REDDIT site - other readers have carried on bangorlol's work and explored even further. This is pure malware. Evil stuff.

From DataHand Technology:

How To Access Netflix's Hundreds of Hidden Categories
The way Netflix works is very simple when it comes to recommending you things to watch - it analyzes what you view the most and the ratings you give, and uses those tags to suggest similar material, following the idea that if you liked this Quentin Tarantino film, you will like this other one. That’s also why every Netflix feed looks different based on the user.

But sometimes you will find that you’ve seen most of what’s being suggested or the suggestions just stopped looking interesting, and you want to dive into new categories. Now, there is a way to do that, and it’s incredibly easy.

And the sooper sekreet:

When navigating Netflix you will notice that whenever you enter a category, the URL address changes. For example, the Action & Adventure URL is “https://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/1365”, and the same goes the sub-categories within a genre, like “Action Thrillers”, “Boxing Movies”, and so on.

That number at the end is the category code.

So select one genre, highlight the URL, go to the end of the URL, backspace over the digits and type in your own from this list:

Action & Adventure: 1365
Action Comedies: 43040
Action Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 1568
Action Thrillers: 43048
Adult Animation: 11881
Adventures: 7442
African Movies: 3761
Alien Sci-Fi: 3327
Animal Tales: 5507
Anime: 7424
Anime Action: 2653
Anime Comedies: 9302
Anime Dramas: 452
Anime Fantasy: 11146
Anime Features: 3063
Anime Horror: 10695
Anime Sci-Fi: 2729
Anime Series: 6721
Art House Movies: 29764
Asian Action Movies: 77232
Australian Movies: 5230
B-Horror Movies: 8195
Baseball Movies: 12339
Basketball Movies: 12762
Belgian Movies: 262
Biographical Documentaries: 3652
Biographical Dramas: 3179
Boxing Movies: 12443
British Movies: 10757
British TV Shows: 52117
Campy Movies: 1252
Children & Family Movies: 783
Chinese Movies: 3960
Classic Action & Adventure: 46576
Classic Comedies: 31694
Classic Dramas: 29809
Classic Foreign Movies: 32473
Classic Movies: 31574
Classic Musicals: 32392
Classic Romantic Movies: 31273
Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 47147
Classic Thrillers: 46588
Classic TV Shows: 46553
Classic War Movies: 48744
Classic Westerns: 47465
Comedies: 6548
Comic Book and Superhero Movies: 10118
Country & Western/Folk: 1105
Courtroom Dramas: 528582748
Creature Features: 6895
Crime Action & Adventure: 9584
Crime Documentaries: 9875
Crime Dramas: 6889
Crime Thrillers: 10499
Crime TV Shows: 26146
Cult Comedies: 9434
Cult Horror Movies: 10944
Cult Movies: 7627
Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 4734
Cult TV Shows: 74652
Dark Comedies: 869
Deep Sea Horror Movies: 45028
Disney: 67673
Disney Musicals: 59433
Documentaries: 6839
Dramas: 5763
Dramas based on Books: 4961
Dramas based on real life: 3653
Dutch Movies: 10606
Eastern European Movies: 5254
Education for Kids: 10659
Epics: 52858
Experimental Movies: 11079
Faith & Spirituality: 26835
Faith & Spirituality Movies: 52804
Family Features: 51056
Fantasy Movies: 9744
Film Noir: 7687
Food & Travel TV: 72436
Football Movies: 12803
Foreign Action & Adventure: 11828
Foreign Comedies: 4426
Foreign Documentaries: 5161
Foreign Dramas: 2150
Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies: 8243
Foreign Horror Movies: 8654
Foreign Movies: 7462
Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 6485
Foreign Thrillers: 10306
French Movies: 58807
Gangster Movies: 31851
Gay & Lesbian Dramas: 500
German Movies: 58886
Greek Movies: 61115
Historical Documentaries: 5349
Horror Comedy: 89585
Horror Movies: 8711
Independent Action & Adventure: 11804
Independent Comedies: 4195
Independent Dramas: 384
Independent Movies: 7077
Independent Thrillers: 3269
Indian Movies: 10463
Irish Movies: 58750
Italian Movies: 8221
Japanese Movies: 10398
Jazz & Easy Listening: 10271
Kids Faith & Spirituality: 751423
Kids Music: 52843
Kids' TV: 27346
Korean Movies: 5685
Korean TV Shows: 67879
Late Night Comedies: 1402
Latin American Movies: 1613
Latin Music: 10741
Martial Arts Movies: 8985
Martial Arts, Boxing & Wrestling: 6695
Middle Eastern Movies: 5875
Military Action & Adventure: 2125
Military Documentaries: 4006
Military Dramas: 11
Military TV Shows: 25804
Miniseries: 4814
Mockumentaries: 26
Monster Movies: 947
Movies based on children's books: 10056
Movies for ages 0 to 2: 6796
Movies for ages 2 to 4: 6218
Movies for ages 5 to 7: 5455
Movies for ages 8 to 10: 561
Movies for ages 11 to 12: 6962
Music & Concert Documentaries: 90361
Music: 1701
Musicals: 13335
Mysteries: 9994
New Zealand Movies: 63782
Period Pieces: 12123
Political Comedies: 2700
Political Documentaries: 7018
Political Dramas: 6616
Political Thrillers: 10504
Psychological Thrillers: 5505
Quirky Romance: 36103
Reality TV: 9833
Religious Documentaries: 10005
Rock & Pop Concerts: 3278
Romantic Comedies: 5475
Romantic Dramas: 1255
Romantic Favorites: 502675
Romantic Foreign Movies: 7153
Romantic Independent Movies: 9916
Romantic Movies: 8883
Russian: 11567
Satanic Stories: 6998
Satires: 4922
Scandinavian Movies: 9292
Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 1492
Sci-Fi Adventure: 6926
Sci-Fi Dramas: 3916
Sci-Fi Horror Movies: 1694
Sci-Fi Thrillers: 11014
Science & Nature Documentaries: 2595
Science & Nature TV: 52780
Screwball Comedies: 9702
Showbiz Dramas: 5012
Showbiz Musicals: 13573
Silent Movies: 53310
Slapstick Comedies: 10256
Slasher and Serial Killer Movies: 8646
Soccer Movies: 12549
Social & Cultural Documentaries: 3675
Social Issue Dramas: 3947
Southeast Asian Movies: 9196
Spanish Movies: 58741
Spiritual Documentaries: 2760
Sports & Fitness: 9327
Sports Comedies: 5286
Sports Documentaries: 180
Sports Dramas: 7243
Sports Movies: 4370
Spy Action & Adventure: 10702
Spy Thrillers: 9147
Stage Musicals: 55774
Stand-up Comedy: 11559
Steamy Romantic Movies: 35800
Steamy Thrillers: 972
Supernatural Horror Movies: 42023
Supernatural Thrillers: 11140
Tearjerkers: 6384
Teen Comedies: 3519
Teen Dramas: 9299
Teen Screams: 52147
Teen TV Shows: 60951
Thrillers: 8933
Travel & Adventure Documentaries: 1159
TV Action & Adventure: 10673
TV Cartoons: 11177
TV Comedies: 10375
TV Documentaries: 10105
TV Dramas: 11714
TV Horror: 83059
TV Mysteries: 4366
TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 1372
TV Shows: 83
Urban & Dance Concerts: 9472
Vampire Horror Movies: 75804
Werewolf Horror Movies: 75930
Westerns: 7700
World Music Concerts: 2856
Zombie Horror Movies: 75405

Of course, now I am tempted to go to Sci-Fi Adventure: 6926 and then enter 6927 or 6925 - these are not listed and might lead down an interesting rabbit-hole. Those numbers both show No matching titles found. but who knows, a little poking around...

The genesis of The Kingsmen movie series:

A fun list - Engineering hoaxes

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From Design News magazine:

The 20 Greatest Hoaxes in the History of Engineering
From scandals and cons to faux innovations and pranks, here's a look at the most infamous hoaxes throughout engineering history.

A fun slide-show - everything from The Mechanical Turk chess playing automaton from 1770 through a lot of the late 1800's stuff - perpetual motion, the Keely motor, etc... through to a wonderful pair of videos from the University of Michigan (here and here). They close with the Theranos scam.

September 2020

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