Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Naked picture

Aha! Got your attention, didn't I?

Jennifer Lawrence recently had naked pictures of herself stolen from her iCloud account and leaked to the Internet.  Several people have offered the wisdom that you shouldn't take naked pictures of yourself (or allow others to take them) if you don't want to see those pictures leaked all over the Internet.

I find it reprehensible that hackers feel that it is acceptable to break into anyone's digital life and share what they discover. By the way, most Apple product users who back up their phones (etc.) are backing up their content to iCloud. They are not 'posting' it there. Most do not realize that the 'backup' means that their content is accessible through the web. What hacked users should be more concerned about is the password that they use for iTunes. If the password was that easy to hack, I hope it is not being used for anything else. Also, I hope hacked users aren't just focusing on having their digital content exposed, but are checking their iTunes account for fraudulent purchases.

Everything you type on a keyboard or store on a network-connectable device is at risk. I earn my living as a network security specialist. I tell people, time and time again, to assume that everything you have in electronic format is as public as a postcard as it travels through the U.S. Postal System. And, while encryption of your electronic possessions can gain you some level of protection, encryption is not a panacea. Some encryption algorithms can be broken by a determined and skilled agent. Plus, some trojan software can record every keystroke you make prior to those bits being encrypted by software that resides on your machine.

Remember all the public figures who had to deal with early-career photos coming out after they became famous, pre-digital age?  People used to chastise those celebrities as well, pointing out that they should never have had those photos taken had they not been willing to live with the consequences later.

While I am not encouraging anyone to take naked pictures of themselves, digital or otherwise,   I am not comfortable with the statement "Don't take naked pictures." To me this is too darn close to blame-the-victim statements even if the statements are not meant that way. 

If I routinely leave my backdoor open for a housemate who constantly misplaces their key, and then someone walks in and takes all of our valuables or assaults one of us, I already know that I shouldn't have left the backdoor open.  Believe me, I don't need to be reminded.  In addition, I may take such a statement to mean that people who leave their backdoors open are to blame for whatever happens as a result.

Now, feel free to swap any of the following for "leave their backdoors open": 

  • "leave a key under the mat" 
  • "wear provocative clothing" 
  • "dress like a gang member"
  • "stay in a marriage after physical abuse"
  • "correctly answer questions in class a lot"
  • "drink too much at a party", etc.

Now do you see the naked picture?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Recommitting to healthy eating

This Fall I lost 20 pounds by committing to a pretty basic healthy food regime.  And then the Holiday season hit.  I've gained at least half of the weight back and I still haven't gotten back on the band wagon, really.

The colder months make eating the way I want to relatively difficult, but I know that I will not only drop weight but that I'll feel better if I go back to some form of the plan I was on this Fall.  There's no book or web site that codifies the way that I want to eat.  The plan that probably comes closest is The Paleo Diet.  However, I do plan on eating some of the things that they eschew like some whole grains, legumes, potatoes, and salt.  And while I'll choose organic and local when it's available, I'm not going to spiral into a mega guilt trip whenever I order something at a restaurant because the meal's ingredients aren't organic and local.

The Plan

Here are the basic precepts of the plan I'm going to baby step my way back into (just like I did in the Fall), in order of priority/frequency when considering what to eat:

Fresh fruits and vegetables will provide the bulk of my diet.  Lightly cooked or (preferably) raw.

Fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables (especially in colder months).  Frozen is actually preferred when the food is not locally grown, since frozen produce is picked ripe and frozen close to the source sealing in more of the nutrients than 'fresh' produce that is trucked or flown hundreds or thousands of miles.  In order to maintain the 'freshness' of the produce, it is often sprayed with all sorts of chemicals.

Wild-caught seafood.  Farmed seafood is usually fed processed/unnatural junk and is also highly exposed to pesticides and other chemicals.

Nuts and seeds.

Unprocessed (dry whole) grains and beans.

Eggs.  Preferably from free-range chickens who are not fed a "vegetarian diet".  Chickens naturally eat bugs and grubs.  If they're fed a "vegetarian diet" their food is usually some sort of processed meal not only unnatural to the birds but also usually soaked in pesticides and other chemicals from the growing to the processing of the junk.

Free-range poultry.

Grass-fed meat.

Raw-milk based dairy products.

Cold-pressed oils (primarily Olive and coconut)

Things that I will be avoiding (whenever possible - at the very least, they will not be in my pantry):

  • Processed foods (anything in a box, can, or bag with more than one or two ingredients - especially if the ingredients listed are not the names of whole foods)
  • Refined sugars
  • Flour, of any kind (baked goods are not natural ...  I may treat myself to a whole grain product once in a very great while).
  • Mass-produced dairy products
  • Canned tomatoes.  (Organic-based jarred tomato sauces will be o.k. in moderation)
  • The hardest thing for me to give up will be the diet soda that I've again let myself become addicted to again. Part of that is the caffeine, part of it is the taste, but the biggest attraction is the bubbles which help breakdown the postnasal drip that I'm always fighting. I will probably go back to using my Soda Stream to make seltzers that I'll flavor with a little juice as a means of weaning myself off the other crud. I do plan on allowing myself some morning caffeine via hot tea.

    My sweetener of choice has been some form of stevia. However, after doing some research on that I'm going to switch from the powdered version which is highly processed with suspicious chemicals and is usually combined with some form of actual sugar. SweetLeaf makes a liquid version that is closer to pure stevia. But come Spring, I may actually try my hand at growing my own stevia and making my own suspension. Here's a great article about commercially available stevia which also contains a recipe for making your own liquid stevia suspension: Food Babe Investigates Stevia
    If this type of plan appeals to you, I would like to recommend 100 Days of Real Food and Slim Palate.   Both are closer to a pure Paleo diet than I am embarking on, but they're close enough for government work, as the saying goes.

    My employer has a program through WebMD to help you manage your health goals. I decided to let them coach me. I may also visit a local Naturopath. I previously worked with one who I really liked, but his office was thirty minutes from my house, so it was a hassle getting to him especially when his only evening with office hours overlapped with a lot of activities that I am committed to. Hopefully I can find someone closer with some of the same sensibilities to help me better manage my health.

    Wish me luck and especially health!

    Thursday, December 26, 2013

    Pulled the trigger on going back to cable

    I've been a tv subscriber again for about two weeks.  It hasn't change my viewing habits much at all.  I refuse to watch live television, unless there is 'news' involved.  Thanks to Comcast On Demand I have been able to catch up with a few shows that I liked but Hulu only carried the most recent five episodes of.  Plus, I can now DVR shows that were only available for $ on Amazon. I am also not allowing myself to spend money on a la cart offerings online any longer.  I also dropped Netflix, since I was only watching one or two things at most per month.  Hulu Plus will probably go as well, though I'm still a bit intrigued by some of their original programming.  Additionally, I like having the clips related to m shows accessible in one place (way better than you tube).  If I want to just watch a particular movie, I am putting it on my canistream.it wish list.

    Ultimately, I am probably shelling out more per month, but it is a predictable amount.  Plus, for the next couple of months I'll have access to HBO and Showtime on demand and broadcast programming.  Hopefully, I can catch up with Game of a Thrones, True Blood, and Dexter before the trial period is up.

    Friday, September 06, 2013

    Bringing back the TV feed into my life?

    I have been "TV free" for a year now.  I was spending about $70/month for a modest package of Comcast's television programming. I found myself watching stuff because it happened to be on.  Or, I would use my DVR to record loads of stuff because it sounded like I might enjoy it.  I was spending more time in front of the television than I really wanted to.  Even when I managed to push myself away from the thing I kept thinking that $70/month was a lot to spend on something that I viewed as a vice that kept me from doing other things.  So, I dropped the TV package. 

    I started watching video content on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  I tried to watch broadcast TV, but the only major station I could get was ABC, whose programming is well covered by Hulu.  I still watched an hour or two of video content every evening and maybe three hours on each weekend day.  My weekends were quite a bit more 'productive'.  However, I realized that my weekday evenings couldn't be much more productive since my brain was usually fried by the time I got home from work.   The entire arrangement really has been working pretty well.  Every now and then I would lament the lack of a television feed.  I always have to wait a day or more to see the most recent episode of the shows I like,  Plus, there were some CBS shows that were not available, even on a pay-per-episode basis on Amazon.  I don't consider this an actual hardship, just an inconvenience.  Part of me misses the serendipity of discovering new shows or hearing about an upcoming program from a commercial.  The one major thing that I do miss is the ability to easily switch on the news.  Yes, I can get some news through my Roku and over the Internet, but local news is a bit more challenging.  Again, I have an app on my iPad for the biggest NH TV station, but it's not quite the same on some level.

    Since moving into my new house and hitting the 1 year anniversary of banishing "the feed" from my TV, I've been reconsidering.  I know what shows I've been willing to pay for "a la carte" on Amazon, and what I've been watching on Hulu and Netflix.  If I resubscribe to "the feed" from some company, I will no longer be purchasing shows via Amazon.  I may give up Hulu as well.  Netflix may get to stay for a while since I have enjoyed some of their original content and I use "CanIstream.it" to alert me when Netflix finally picks up some movie that I've been interested in watching.

    I shopped around today comparing channel coverage, features (such as HD and DVRs), and overall costs.  It looks like I'm probably going to go with DirecTV.  With the introductory rate, I could be paying about $49/month for all the features I want and more channels than I need (though this is there lowest level offering).  Beginning with the thirteenth month I'll be paying $76/month.  That will put me back up to what I was paying Comcast a year ago.   The entire thing involves a two year commitment.  So, two years back on "the feed".

    I actually tried to sign up online today.  Unfortunately, my house was just recently built so they don't think that I exist.   This means that I'll have to call them to execute the transaction.   Another hurdle.  I'm sure I'll do it, but it does make me wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something here.

    Google Reader refugees and other ways to aggregate content

    Years ago, I used to read a few RSS feeds on a particular topic.  Someone in my field graciously made a web portal that aggregated the cream of them in a web portal.  A friend of mine remember that and asked me the name of the site, since he has been reading our industry's RSS news on Google's imminently-dead RSS reader service.  After I answered his question, I realized that my response might be valuable to others.  While it doesn't go into much detail, it should give you some options if you've been using Google to keep up with RSS feeds.

    1. I don’t remember the exact name of the site that USED TO aggregate some of the more popular RSS feeds.  Even a year before I left the Lab, some of the content on that page was stale and they were missing a lot of really good feeds.  I had pretty much given up on them.
    2. I used to also love Netvibes.com.  They allowed you to make your own web-portal/dashboard, that could include RSS feeds.  They have since moved to an app-based model.  Not a bad thing.   See this blog post that talks about why what they did was the right thing to do:  http://richardstacy.com/2011/01/11/netvibes-and-the-shift-from-the-portal-to-the-app/
    3. Many RSS feeds are dying off, which played into Google’s decision to give up on its reader functionality. 
    4. If you’re still looking for a web-based replacement to Google reader, review this:  http://www.dainbinder.com/2013/04/the-best-web-based-rss-readers.html    However, they don’t mention a pretty popular, cross-platfrom (web/ios/android), alternative:  Feedly.  See www.feedly.com
    5. Microsoft Outlook supports RSS feeds, which is only relevant to Windoze users.  Outlook.com (Microsoft's streamlined update to Live.com) does not currently support RSS feeds.  On the other hand,  Outlook.com does seem to be a pretty straightforward web-based mail service.  No bells, no whistles, but just simple/solid basic email.  (Let's hope that they can keep it cleaner than either hotmail.com or live.com were when it comes to spam/phishing/malmail and p0wned accounts.)
    6. My ‘reader’ of choice is actually Flipboard (Android/IoS).  It lets you make a magazine out of all sorts of content, including RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, on and on).  You know it’s good stuff when Facebook is trying to steal their model, see:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2420873,00.asp  (article also makes mention of, and links to an article on, AOL’s beta RSS reader)    

    Flipboard needs to figure out a way to take their functionality fully cross-platform, like my favorite PIM (Personal Information Manager):  Evernote (see:  http://www.evernote.com/).   If they don't, Feedly or Facebook are going to overtake them and make them irrelevant (Remember MySpace and Friendster?)

    If nothing else, perhaps Flipboard could look into leveraging their current Android development stream as a springboard for working within Chrome.  If Google is not already pushing Chrome development in the direction of "Cross platform virtual mobile desktop", they soon should.  Android is still more popular as a mobile OS than anything Microsoft based, and will only stay that way if they make it so that an app that you use on your mobile device can be used NOT only on a Windoze PC, but also on a Apple-based PC.  That would also be another way for them to outdo Apple, since IoS apps only run on Apple hardware...

    Are you listening Apple?  Perhaps it's time for Safari to start acting like a "cross platform virtual mobile desktop".  Feeling that struggle to make "the next big thing"?  It doesn't have to be another piece of revolutionary consumer-based hardware.  You already have a small cadre of Safari users in the Windoze world.  A lot of people love your mobile devices for themselves, but have various personal ($$$) or business reasons for using Windoze.  Not only would you thrill these people and solidify your hold on them by allowing them to run IoS apps in Safari under Windoze, but you'd probably win over some more consumers to your IoS devices if they could use apps in Safari on Windoze that they use on IoS.

    With most of our data being stored "in the cloud" apps that run in a "cross platform virtual mobile desktop" may just be the next wave.  Device-independence shouldn't just mean either a cloud-based roaming OS-handcuffed profile or feature-anemic browser-based apps.

    Mountain View?  Cupertino?  Are you listening?  We all know that Redmond isn't and probably won't.  After all, they gave up their toe-hold into other OSes long ago when they shrugged off Internet Explorer 5.5 for the Mac.

    Am I the only one that sees these opportunities?