Austin's Techdirt Profile


About Austin

Austin's Comments comment rss

  • Sep 27, 2014 @ 06:57pm

    A simple solution to all of this

    Burn the procedure binders.

    As bad as the economy is these days, a sizable portion of the customer service team at Comcast and every other ISP is composed of mid-20-somethings who have bachelors degrees in CS. These are people who, for the most part, actually know how to solve 90% of their customers' problems before they even get the job with the ISP. They're working a crappy CSR job because it's the only job anywhere in IT they can find, not because they're idiots.

    And what's the first thing that happens when they show up for their first day at work? They're told they have to follow the company's procedures to the letter, or risk termination. Even if they know the instant the customer calls that NONE of their procedures is going to fix their problem.

    So burn the procedure binders, and allow the (usually somewhat knowledgable) CSRs to use their free will. You'll be amazed at how often this will fix the problem.

    But the issue here isn't a lack of management. As is more often the case than not, the issue here is TOO MUCH management.

  • Sep 27, 2014 @ 06:46pm

    The funny part is...

    ...that none of this is relevant.

    That is, none of what Apple or Google is doing is any change to mobile data traffic. They're (finally) encrypting the contents of the device, but still not the traffic.

    And most of the "encrypted" data on the device is only really "encrypted" in the sense that if you try to dump the contents of the memory on the device, it's encrypted.

    But if you guess the 4-digit numeric passcode that 90%+ of users use to "secure" their phone? Wide open, encryption irrelevant.

    So the phone still isn't really encrypted. The traffic isn't encrypted, and the device itself isn't really either, it has a lock you can retry infinite times with just 4 digits and only 10 potential characters per digit.

    And this more-or-less lack of any real security improvement? Yep, that's what the FBI is shitting its pants over.

  • Sep 24, 2014 @ 11:47am


    This. A thousand times this.

    I know this is going to sound like blasphemy to the TD crowd, but the proper response was to ask Mr. Buckworth to stop drawing and close his notebook, and ask his fellow passenger to stop freaking out, and make it painfully obvious to both of them that if either causes more disruptions to the flight, then they're BOTH grounded. Then delay takeoff 5 minutes and keep an eye on them. Odds are good by the end of the flight they'd be fast friends, and if not, kick them BOTH out.

    Neither is right here. Yes, the terrorism threat to aircraft is so close to zero as to be a statistical anomaly these days, but you, as a passenger, fly with the airlines you have, not the airlines you'd like to have. Mr. Buckworth knew this, or should've known this. The fault lies equally with both him and the other passenger.

    That said, the airline's response was still brain dead stupid.

  • Sep 24, 2014 @ 12:05pm

    Fight from within

    Not that it'll solve every problem like this, but here's a temporary solution until we get all this surveilance stopped for good.

    Join your local police's IAB department (if they are large enough to have one.)

    Nobody haw power over the cops, except of course the cops. So join THOSE cops, and be a total hardass. You'll only have to put a couple dozen of these power abusers out of business before several hundred more will stop abusing their power on their own.

    Of course, we still need to get crap like this stopped, but I'm just saying, there exists an effective short-term solution to many of these problems.

  • Aug 26, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Great


    There's stupidity. Then there's willful ignorance. My money says Mr. Meier is firmly planted in the latter category.

    I seriously doubt a person who has espoused the unreliability of an IP address for making an identification is unaware of the general technical wrongness of DMCA-ing the registrar rather than the site itself.

    This is merely a tactic. Since the DMCA puts zero burden on the registrar, there are only 3 ways this can play out:

    A) The registrar complies, Meier gets the content taken down, Meier wind.
    B) The registrar knows their DMCA law better than they should have to, they refuse, Meier goes to court and when he sees he's going to lose, claims it was all an innocent error on his part. Meier doesn't win, but doesn't lose, and can still go after the site itself.
    C) The same as option B, but the registrar simply refuses and drops the issue. Meier once again doesn't win, but also doesn't lose, and can still sue the site.

    Notice how, no matter how this plays out, Meier doesn't lose? He's pleading ignorance (or will be, if the registrar calls him on his BS) and 99% of the time, a judge will presume he really didn't know better and let him off the hook.

    In other words, he's not stupid. From a shark-in-the-dirty-waters standpoint, his tactic here is legal genius. It just happens to be very, very EVIL legal genius.

    The paralegal in me admires this price. The netizen in me wants to lynch him. Thankfully I'm only a paralegal a third of the day. Sadly I get rope burns easily.

  • Aug 26, 2014 @ 11:56am

    And...what about records?

    Given that TD had a story a while ago about how next-to-impossible it is to have your record expunged when the cops arrest you, then decide not to prosecute, the burning question in my mind is what happens to peoples' records?

    I don't know how it works in New Jersey (apparently literally everything is different there, like Texas but more so) but here in Alabama, while parking tickets are handled by the local city and not part of your state Department of Public Safety record, all speeding tickets, even from local cops, DO go on your statewide public record (which anyone can pull online for a measly $8, or in Montgomery in person for probably more than $8 worth in gas to get there, heh.)

    So is everyone's record being expunged for free? If not, I'd rather pay the $80 ticket and sink a weekend into one of those diversion programs. Especially so that a future employer doesn't think I was speeding 30MPH over the limit with a bunch of poor innocent children desperately trying to get out of my way.

    Just saying. This story could get MUCH worse.

  • Aug 26, 2014 @ 11:40am

    Not as relevant as you may think

    Is this tied to the militarization of police? Yes.

    Is it tied in the way you think? No.

    Here's the problem. The program the army uses to sell military gear to the cops exists for several reasons, but one of the biggest is congressional earmarks. That is, virtually every dollar in the DoD budget is earmarked - by congress - to fund a SPECIFIC program. For example, that 600 billion dollars we're spending on the F-35 that not a single general or admiral will say they even want? Earmarked. The armed services are disallowed, by congress, to spend that money the way they - the armed servies, who you'd think would be the experts on the subject - want to. Instead, they're forced to direct the money to specific projects, and most often, to specific defense contractors.

    How is this relevant? Because the program used by the armed services to sell this gear - at bargain basement prices, but still, it's sold, not gifted - to the police goes into a slush fund that the military can then spend however they want, free of congressional earmarks. Thus, the military depends on these sales of arms to the cops to fund projects that congress doesn't want to pay for.

    Keep in mind, this isn't the DoD's preferred solution to any of this. The armed services all have their own logistics divisions who are veritable experts at moving vast quantities of guns, tanks, and anything else an army needs anywhere in record time. They're better than UPS by most accounts. The DoD certainly doesn't want to be fighting potential hostiles (anyone remember anything that happened in the 60's and 70's when the National Guard was sent in AGAINST the local cops???) who are using the DoD's own gear. But when they need to direct more money to armor Humvees and aren't allowed to use the money wasted on the F-35 or the 3,000 surplus Abrams tanks they don't want, then hey, the money has to come from somewhere.

    And guess how else the DoD makes extra pocket change that isn't earmarked? Yep, Military Surplus Stores. All that gear just lying there for any civilian to walk in and buy it? The armed services sell that gear to the stores, and the money goes into another slush fund.

    So here's the thing. There aren't a million different kinds of "body armor." Guns? Thousands. Bullets? Tens of thousands. Body Armor? You can probably count those between your hands and feet, anyway. By far the most prevalent (not counting things like Flak Vests, which really aren't body armor) is the US's Interceptor armor. And it is told, by the military itself, to private surplus stores all across the country, to the tune of 2000 or 3000 vests a year. This is because it uses a system of ceramic plates. Once a given plate takes a single round, that plate is useless, and won't stop anything. The DoD did some number crunching after Desert Storm and figured out it's actually cheaper for them to sell an entire vest, plates and all, than to replace the single broken plate. So some soldier in Iraq cracks a plate in combat, and boom, it gets sold to a civilian who now has 95% as-good-as-new body armor.

    This law intends to do a few things, but it's motivated by just one thing. It is trying to ensure that the military can still put down a civilian uprising if needed. It is trying to ensure that the army doesn't have to outfit every soldier with AP rounds to counter the body armor. But mostly, it's motivated by the same greed that causes the DoD to sell thus stuff in the first place.

    Many people have noted - for over a DECADE now - that Dragonskin is a superior kind of body armor over the Interceptor armor in use today. The guy who designed Interceptor, himself a vietnam war vet who still holds a patent and gets regular royalty payments on Interceptor armor sales to the Army, Marines, and (I think) Navy, himself has said, on camera, that he agrees that Dragonskin is a superior product. And it's cheaper. Yes, the better product is ALSO cheaper.

    But the guy who intended it and the company that mass produces it for the DoD are not the same people. The company that makes Interceptor has spent no small amount of coin to ensure that, every time a new DoD budget passes through congress, the funds for body armor are earmarked for Interceptor armor ONLY, not Dragonskin. And so, our troops come home as paraplegics (if at all) because of the inferior body armor that congress stupidly earmarks, as if to imply that senators and congressmen know more about body armor THAN THE ARMY!

    That's the root of this problem. These sales of arms - to civilians who lack the training to know what they hell they're doing anyway - and to the police are all the symptoms of the root cause, congressional earmarks.

    Remove the earmarks, and the DoD can operate on half its current budget while still being better equipped than they are right now, and ill-advised, short sighted programs like these will no longer be needed.

  • Aug 24, 2014 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    Yes and no.

    Assuming that NIU doesn't have their own Cert, valid and signed (which, since I assume they offer at least 1 online class and accept online payments for said class, is doubtful) then this is correct.

    However, all NIU has to do is re-sign the page with their own cert, then do some DNS masking, and the user will get no warnings, as long as their own cert is valid for the masked domain. I've seen it done at a K-12 school here in Alabama. Since all the URLs are rewritten as being on, and the cert for that is valid, even visitor's browsers get no warning.

    Of course, then it's blatantly obvious that the site is being filtered because instead of the address bar says, but if you're not paying attention or aren't tech savy, the transition is totally seamless. Especially on mobile devices that hide the URL bar after a few seconds (basically every browser on Android and many on iOS) then you probably wouldn't notice.

    But yeah, without a DNS masking, you'd have to accept their cert, or at least accept that it applies to *.com (and net and org) rather than a specific domain.

  • Aug 24, 2014 @ 10:27am

    Re: Time for change

    Dismiss the government? Really? You want to treat them like an employee you're letting go, fine. What do you do to the ones who won't leave, which is probably going to be, oh I don't know, all of them? Shoot them?

    Don't get me wrong, I hate what they're doing to us, and these redaction are beyond laughable, etc, but some people (like you) really need to put more thought into this. When these people sign a letter of resignation you'll know it, because they won't redact the part that says "letter of resignation." Until then, whether they deserve to keep their jobs or not, they have them, and they're not letting them go.

    So please just stop it with the "citizens take back the government, by force if needed" horse crap. The system we have is good in theory, it's just broken in practice. Thankfully we have tools built into the system itself that allow us, the people, to fix it.

    And it starts on election day. You wanna fix the government? Then vote. Leave your apathy and hopelessness at home, get to the polls, and vote. THAT is how you solve this.

  • Aug 24, 2014 @ 11:08am

    Remove It All

    I remember seeing a story on 60 Minutes (eh, what can I say, some days there really is nothing on) about a town in France that had around 30,000 people. They ran an experiment of sorts. They removed all the traffic signs, all the red lights, everything, and replaced all the intersections (that they could - some were too small) with roundabouts. They wanted to see how drivers would cope with basically having to make all of their driving decisions themselves, rather than a ton of signage telling them exactly how to drive.

    The result was a 70% drop in accidents.

    The moral of the story? Even the dumbest humans are still as smart as rats. Stop trying to hint the "right" direction to them, put a little cheese at the end of the maze, and 99% of the time they'll arrive at their destination just fine.

    Stop signs, red lights, and anything else that breaks the flow of traffic always causes problems. That is, when people coast at a steady speed, they don't hit each other. Anything that mandates applying the brakes CREATES an opportunity for a traffic accident where none previously existed.

    Meanwhile, these cameras are a poor attempt at treating a symptom, instead of treating the underlying disease.

    But as has been noted elsewhere, this is all about the money, and the money is always in the treatment, never the cure.

  • Aug 21, 2014 @ 01:18pm

    Re: Layers, like an onion

    The flaw in this logic is actually pretty simple: perfect security doesn't exist, never has, and never will.

    Software has bugs, and those bugs only sometimes prevent the software from operating as intended. That isn't a secret, but it belies another simple truth: the remaining bugs are almost always 1) undetectable and 2) vectors for attack.

    This is why we have zero day exploits in the first place. Software vendors COULD spend 100+ years banging away at their software from outside, finding and patching every conceivable hole until it was 99.999% secure. If they did, Notepad would've cost 50 billion dollars to develop and wouldn't hit the market for another 70+ years. Corporations exist to make money, and they do that by shipping product ON A DEADLINE. Part of that is setting a standard for their software that is "secure enough" because common sense dictates they could never attain perfect security. Instead, they try to release software that is 99% secure and bug free, and still 100% on budget and on time.

    Sadly that other 1% is all it takes to end up leaking billions of usernames and passwords to anyone with enough time to find them. And that's the key here. Yanno that 100 years the corporations aren't going to sink into uber-securing their own product? Well, 100 hackers are each more than willing to sink a single year of their own time to find bugs. All it takes is one of those hackers getting lucky and we get an Adobe or PSN class leak of millions and millions of usernames and passwords, all sold to the highest bidder.

    Do you think Adobe or Sony managed to forestall the inevitable by keeping their security infrastructure secret? If so, they didn't forestall it very long.

    And herein lies why Security by Obscurity isn't secure. If they HAD published the plans for their security infrastructure (preferably before implementing it) and opened it for public comment, two things would've happened.

    1) Good, honest, white hat security researchers would've told them of the holes and bugs in their system before hand, allowing Adobe to patch most (though again, not all - no security is EVER perfect) of the bugs before they were implemented, and thus before they were exploitable.

    2) The evil black hats would've had FAR fewer holes to exploit, and thus had a MUCH harder time doing so.

    Security by Obscurity prevents this, and runs under the incorrect theory that it's better if nobody sees your bugs than if everybody can point them out to you. This theory is incorrect because - newsflash - the internet is public. As a result, no matter how much you try to close off your vulnerable code, unless you physically rip out your network adapter, it CAN be exploited by someone, somewhere, all the time.

    So no. Nevermind the MASSIVE difference between secrecy, linguistic randomness, and bit length - that's a much more in depth discussion for another day - security by obscurity is simply flawed, even in theory. And it's even more flawed in practice.

  • Aug 21, 2014 @ 12:42pm

    Re: He isn't the only one saying this

    "What about the autopsies, none of which were handled by local authorities, that also back the officer's account, and not the witness (friend) of the victim."

    What about them? They say he shot the UNARMED TEEN a whopping SIX TIMES, all from behind. Conflicting reports say the two shots in the head were either at range, or execution style. But in either case, he was shot twice, in the head, from behind.

    Unless this cop was not carrying a tazer, that alone is reason enough to brand the cop a killer. The victim here - the teen, not the cop - had no weapon. That alone is reason enough why the cop should NOT have used deadly force. Practically every cop in the country now carries a tazer. Unless this guy didn't have one, then the discussion of whether the cop was in the right should end right there, immediately, because he already used more force than he should have in order to stop and detain an UNARMED person.

    That's it. I don't care of the kid just robbed a bank, a hospital, and every quick mart in the state. If he didn't have a weapon, the cop who tried to aprehend him shouldn't have used a weapon, period. This discussion of whether or not this was excessive must end right now. He used a GUN. It was automatically excessive!

  • Aug 21, 2014 @ 12:20pm

    Well as long as we're at this...

    ...why not give zero weight to each and every argument based upon religion?

    I'm a non-believer. Every time I see someone arguing against abortion or against stem cell research, this is the exact same thought I have: why is this person given a chance to speak? Their argument is based on the - WRONG - assumption that "god" is anything more than a fairy tale with all the voracity of the tooth fairy or the flying spaghetti monster. Why, oh why, is this cave dweller treated as though his opinion should carry any more weight than a random nut job plucked from the nearest insane asylum?

    But then, if we treated religious crazies like the crazies they are, 90% of all the debates we routinely have simply wouldn't happen. A world devoid of religion is a world where almost everyone is in agreement, because their conclusions are all drawn from information, rather than third-hand 6,000 year old unverifiable horse crap.

    And a world without debates makes for a world with some incredibly boring election cycles. Which would be good for the citizens, good for the country itself, and good for the world. But it's bad for the politicians.

    And that's why, in 2014, we still have religion. At all.

  • Aug 21, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    Wanna stop this?

    Then make the verdict come out of the officer's own salaries. The city should not be paying for the mistake of 1 or 2 cops, especially when their "mistake" isn't even in line with internal department guidelines, much less the law the rest of us have to follow.

    So divert 50% of the officers' salaries towards paying this verdict. As soon as it costs the officers more than a light slap on the wrist when they pull stunts like this, it will stop immediately.

  • Aug 19, 2014 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Purpose

    This. A thousand times this.

    The problem with claiming that Wikipedia is unreliable is that it's a fundamental misunderstanding of Wikipedia. Wikipedia isn't a source. It never was. Wikipedia is a starting point, a springboard intended to do two things.

    1) Give you enough of an overview that when you read the detailed sources, you aren't totally lost.

    2) Link you directly to those detailed sources.

    And Wikipedia does this beautifully. If anyone is running under the theory that Wikipedia is the last stop, then it's their fault. It's like someone trying to build a table who shoots themselves in the foot with a nailgun and then complains that the table collapses. It's not the tool's fault that you don't know how to use it, and you shouldn't expect the tool to magically build the table for you just because it makes applying nails to wood easier than before. If you had cited the Encyclopedia Britannica as your SOLE SOURCE in ANY academic paper, that paper would receive an F. Expecting Wikipedia to suffice as a sole source is the fault of the reader, not the site itself. The same applies to news. Don't be surprised when you listen blindly to Faux News or CNN (or yes, even MSNBC, though I still watch - I just assume 50% of everything they say is wrong) and it turns out they were wrong later. Shame on YOU for assuming that ANY single source of information is EVER infallible.

  • Aug 19, 2014 @ 10:05am

    Re: the Victim

    The better question: why wasn't this kid tazered?

    If the claim - and as best I can tell, it's horse crap - is that this kid just robbed a store, but did so without a weapon, and was then walking (or running) away UNARMED, then why the hell didn't the cop simply TAZE HIM??? Is this not EXACTLY what cops carry tazers for? For immobilizing potential threats who do not have lethal weapons on them? This is so much the precise use case for a tazer, it's practically in the company brochure!

    And instead? 6 bullets. For all my complaining that the cops are over-zealous, if they had just tazed the kid, none of this would be happening. And there is less than ZERO good reason why they didn't.

    Unless you want to tell me the police department with body armor, riot shields, assault rifles, tanks, and enough tear gas to drown an entire football stadium doesn't carry something as common and basic among police as a tazer?!

  • Aug 19, 2014 @ 09:59am


    Yes, that is the rule, quite literally I believe it's rule #1.

    But here's the thing: the Army sent them guns. The Army didn't send them "advisors" (which would be Army Rangers, in a foreign mission) to teach them how to use them. I guess the Army made the mistake of assuming - incorrectly - a bunch of redneck cops in Missouri knew how to handle a gun. And I say this as someone living in the woods in Alabama - even the complete rednecks I know, who often can't spell any word over 5 letters, know enough gun safety that they wouldn't pull this crap.

    I mean, seriously, nobody, and I mean NOBODY in the US Army would ever do shit like this. Gun raised means 100% ready to fire, last chance before they blow your ass away. A raised rifle is not the universal symbol for "stop what you're doing." It's the universal symbol for "make your peace in the time it takes this round to fly through the air." That the cops in Ferguson don't understand this is more than enough reason why they shouldn't have these weapons in the first place.

  • Aug 19, 2014 @ 09:45am


    Nope, neither. The correct statement should read as follows:

    If your petition happens to align with something that only Apple, Inc, and literally no other person, government entity, or corporation has any problem with, including all applicable lobbyists, and it also cannot be used as a crudgel by one political party to beat up on the other, then there is a greater than 50% chance, though no certainty, that you might get a bill to a vote without a filibuster, and then signed into law.

    In other words, this law got passed because it's like "protecting the children" so nobody on earth wants to vote against it. What kind of jackass wants you to NOT be able to unlock your phone?

    Oh and Tim? I voted for Obama the Liberal and I got Obama the Centrist, so I agree, he really isn't MUCH (some, but not much) of an improvement over Dubya. But think of it this way: the alternative would've been McCain or Romney. Even if you don't like Obama at all, you gotta admit he was worth voting for to keep the alternative out for 8 years. I mean, corporations are people? Bomb absolutely everything? Isn't Obama a little better than THAT? Just a thought.

  • Aug 19, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Invalid Math

    So let me see if I get this straight...

    1) There are around 370 million people in America
    2) Over 3 million have some level of government security clearance, most the same or even more than Snowden had
    3) We're stripping 100,000 of them of that clearance, but not firing them, just taking away the clearance

    So...what did this accomplish? I mean, 1 out of every 100 people in America has the ability to do what Snowden did, more or less. A full 1% of the (I think) 4th most populated country on Earth. So what good does stripping 100,000 clearances do? This isn't even a subatomic particle within a single drop in the bucket.

    Hell, the number of people who still have their clearances who this is going to anger is probably more than 100,000. If any of them were considering leaking information, wouldn't this spur them to do it quicker, for fear they'll lose theirs next and be unable to?

    Talk about backwards logic.

  • Aug 19, 2014 @ 09:34am

    Quite Literally Insane

    NOTE: Reposting this because it took me a while to write it and apparently TD comments can't include less than signs...

    Insanity is a word that gets bandied about a lot but I do believe this is the most literal example of insanity I have ever witnessed, even here on TD, which is saying something.

    They're saying - someone PLEASE tell me I'm wrong - that if you memorize the information you've committed copyright infringement?

    Let's totally forget the fact that this is a system designed SPECIFICALLY TO AID IN MEMORIZATION FOR A TEST. Because rather than focusing on imbuing students with logic and reasoning in this country and letting natural curiosity take over, we throw volumes and volumes of raw information at students and pray that 70% sticks. I mean, Christ, we teach by shotgun, basically.

    Disregarding that, how would this theoretical "copyright-violation-by-memory" be any different than me simply REMEMBERING a famous line from a movie? I'm remembering several right now. If the MPAA is employing any psychics right now, this would make me liable for at least 30+ cases of infringement. And it's my memory! It's not like I can manually make myself dumb because the law demands I do so. I can ACT dumb in the TSA line, sure. But I can't BE dumb on command. Sorry, I really can't.

    What about music? Do I need to only remember the rhythm to infringe or does it have to include the lyrics? What if I'm playing Name That Tune in the car? Is the fact that I remember 90% of the song before it has played (well, usually) also infringement?

    GASP! Wow I just had an epiphany. The RIAA needs to sue the MPAA for the TV show Name That Tune! I mean, clearly ALL of those contestants were committing memory-copyright-violations! That's all that entire show was! And if they sue them, it has to be for every single song, even the ones where the contestants got the right answer after like 5 seconds, because clearly they were thinking of the whole song in their memory! This could be great, guys! We could have one goliath slay the other for us!

    But of course, then remembering anything that has happened at all in the last 140+ years (or however long the specific copyright term for the specific thing is) is now a crime. Drats! Well, it was nice knowing you internet, electricity, and everything it has spawned since! I gotta go forget my entire life plus 70 years now, buh-bye!

More comments from Austin >>