Friday, January 25, 2013

trust no one

Just narrowly avoided getting sucked into clicking on an evilware link.

No, I was not taking any foolish chances. This thing was embedded in a tweet from a personally known, real-life-friend's real account, the icon of which is a clear picture of that person's real face. The message was not out of character. In fact, it was spot-on in character. I'm aware that links to "a picture of you" is usually a red alert for a scam, but this was from an avid (and quite good, by the way) photographer with a penchant for taking silly candid shots and then teasing friends about them.

Out of habit, I checked the condensed URL with a website which expands shortened ones. It looked weird, and just as I was about to send a message to my friend asking about it, my friend announced that the account had been compromised.

Trojans have gone from the equivalent of a mass-mailout letter bomb, to a letter bomb in an envelope with a friend's printed return address label,  to one with a friend's return address in that friend's handwriting, and a personal in-joke from your junior high school years in the letter.

Sometimes the appropriate response to living in a crazy world is madness, so go ahead and be paranoid. Check every link, no matter who it seems to be from. There are several tools that check the safety of URLS or give the full names of shortened ones. Below are a couple:

Sucuri SiteCheck (free website lookup, but with advertising of company products)

URL X-ray (free)

Monday, January 21, 2013

a computer-only public library

The First Bookless Public Library: Texas to Have BiblioTech
(Jan. 14, 2013  ABC News)

The tech-geek part of me thinks it sounds cool, but the book-nerd part feels some trepidation. This is not due to the concept in and of itself, but because we live in a polarized, extremist culture. We have trouble wrapping our minds around two good options existing side by side. We tend to think that if there are two of anything, one must be better, and if one is better, the other is downright bad, and the bad one should be gotten rid of entirely.

Apparently this is to be a new, specialized branch of the San Antonio system, which already has 26 branches. Viewed this way, rather than as the first step into an inevitable printless future, it need not be a threat to beloved tomes with paper pages, any more than the opening of a rare book library would threaten the ability of patrons to continue to get their bestsellers at other branches. So let the past make way for the future -- not by leaving, but by inviting the future to stand beside it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

on a more positive note

Been following the multitude of reports about the recent CES tech show. One trend seemed to be embedding sensors and little computers in everything. If we could get them all to talk to each other, maybe we could finally have the future envisioned on the Jetsons.

If we could get them to talk with our cellphones too, we could have a future even the Jetsons couldn't imagine.

(Right now I'd settle for having my phone communicate with my glasses, as one or the other is often misplaced, but usually not both at the same time.)

it ain't just that they can't add without calculators ...

O.k., this is an oldfogey what's-the-world-coming-to rant. Went to the store the other day and got a few things. I happened to have exact change, so I used it. The clerk -- a twentysomething -- put the coins down, spread them out, and stared at them for several minutes, counting and re-counting (and still miscounted). It's not like we're talking about Victorian English shillings and pounds here; this was U.S. legal tender in convenient, intuitive, decimal form, less than a dollar, with only a couple of pennies.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


2013 is not a prime, although at first glance it looks like it maybe ought to be. It's divisible by 3, 11,  and 61. Three  and eleven at least are useful primes, tools for nice, neat, aesthetically satisfying factoring. Sixty-one is just annoying. It's one more than the beautifully divisible 60. -- 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30 -- so useful the Babylonians used it as their base -- and then someone goes and spoils it by adding a lousy 1.  Anyhow, 2013 is still kind of an awkward-looking number, IMHO.