Shared posts

23 Oct 18:37

Verizon Has Quietly Made Its Tracking 'Supercookies' a Lot More Powerful

by jwz
It's 2015 and you still have good reasons to despise AOL:

Earlier this year, Verizon was roundly criticized and sued for using "super cookies" that tracked its customers around the internet for advertising purposes regardless of whether or not they had deleted standard tracking cookies. So, naturally, it's making the trackers stronger and more persistent than ever. [...]

Earlier this year, Verizon paid $4.4 billion for AOL and all the companies it owns, including The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget. That takeover was incredibly important because AOL does most of its business these days as an advertising company.

AOL's advertising network serves ads on roughly 40 percent of the web, according to ProPublica. Verizon knows its customers' home addresses, the type of cell phones they own, the number of people on a given phone plan, and customer financial information. That information can be used by AOL and Verizon to target you much more carefully, which equals better (more expensive) ads.

"The Relevant Mobile Advertising program uses your postal and email addresses, certain information about your Verizon products and services (such as device type), and information we obtain from other companies (such as gender, age range, and interests). The separate Verizon Selects program uses this same information plus additional information about your use of Verizon services including mobile Web browsing, app and feature usage and location of your device. The AOL Advertising Network uses information collected when you use AOL services and visit third-party websites where AOL provides advertising services (such as Web browsing, app usage, and location), as well as information that AOL obtains from third-party partners and advertisers."

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 18:32

Yes on F

by jwz
When a multinational corporation spends $8M to defeat a ballot measure in a single city, it's a foregone conclusion that you should vote for it.

There is literally no chance that doing what they want is in your best interest, unless you are on their board.

The Top 9 People and Companies Cashing in on Airbnb's $8 Million Campaign

Airbnb's jawdropping $8 million expenditure to defeat the ballot measure that would strictly regulate short-term rentals in San Francisco has the No on Proposition F campaign on track to become one of the most expensive in San Francisco history. With five weeks to go, Airbnb trails only the American Beverage Association ($9.2 million to defeat the soda tax in 2014) and PG&E ($10.8 million in 2008 to defeat public power).

Airbnb's $8 million far outstrips the $5.6 million that all 14 mayoral candidates combined spent in the 2011 election.

You may have read an astroturf blog post against Prop F; read this instead.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 18:31

"Being a US citizen did not entitle me to rights that I probably thought", says TSA.

by jwz
Small town mayor relinquishes electronics and passwords to agents at SFO

Stockton, California Mayor Anthony R. Silva attended a recent mayor's conference in China, but his return trip took a bit longer than usual. At the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) this week, agents with the Department of Homeland Security detained Silva and confiscated his personal cell phone among other electronics. According to comments from the mayor, that may not even be the most alarming part.

"Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property," Silva told SFGate. "In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices."

The mayor's attorney, Mark Reichel, told SFGate that Silva was not allowed to leave the airport without forfeiting his passwords. Reichel was not present for Silva's interaction with the DHS agents, either. The mayor was told he had "no right for a lawyer to be present" and that being a US citizen did not "entitle me to rights that I probably thought," according to the paper.

(Also, "rights" by definition are not "entitlements", you illiterate motherfuckers. If you've sworn to uphold the Constitution and you can't explain the difference between rights and privileges, maybe you don't deserve its protection either.)

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 18:29


by jwz
How America's corporations got their own private legal system

In 1925, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations of similar size and bargaining power could use arbitration, rather than courts, to settle their differences; today, corporations demand that customers and employees agree to use the arbitration system for redress of any grievances, while reserving the right to use the courts to attack humans who offend them. [...]

The largest arbitration company in America, the for-profit National Arbitration Foundation, is owned by investors who also own one of the country's largest debt-collection agency -- and many debt-collection cases get settled in arbitration.

How unbalanced is arbitration? Out of 18,075 debt-collection cases handled in California by the NAF, just 30 were settled in favor of humans. When humans do win against companies, they collect much smaller settlements than they would in court, too.

23 Oct 18:27

Good News: Cops Now Slightly More Likely to Lube You First

by jwz
"Should it be said that constables may not invade the buttocks of the citizenry?"

I imagine some of you, probably the non-lawyers, believed there were already some limits on cops yanking things out of your ass, or, for that matter, putting things in it, which is often a required precursor to such yanking. Technically there are such limits, though I'm sure somebody out there would be willing to debate whether the Founders ever contemplated, when crafting the Fourth Amendment, the possibility that the government they were creating might one day employ agents to look up citizen asses on a regular basis.

For why declare [in a Bill of Rights] that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that constables may not invade the buttocks of the citizenry, when no power is given by which such spelunking could be justified? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 84 (first draft)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, anuses, rectums, colons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place or buttocks to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

U.S. Const., amend. IV (rejected draft)

They probably didn't, partly because (1) there was no such thing as a police force at the time and (2) they assumed we would not all go completely insane in less than 300 years.

Previously, previously.

23 Oct 18:18

Corporate Ad Mocking Burning Man's Corporate Influence Is So Accurate That Burning Man Might Sue

by jwz
Ok, so first of all, this ad is pretty funny:

But THEN they unleash the true comedy gold:

A new ad that mocks Burning Man's corporate influences and was itself produced by sandwich company Quizno's (as a faux-installment of The Maze Runner movie franchise) is so meta and self-aware as to be nearly sentient. At once brilliant and sordid, this is the kind of meta-TV that David Foster Wallace warned us about, may he rest in peace. Oh, and perfectly completing the meta-mind-fuck of this whole episode, Burning Man officials are considering a lawsuit against Quizno's -- for commodifying its culture.

[Burning Man] Spokesperson Jim Graham says legal action is being considered because the video is theft of the event's intellectual property. "We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification," Graham said. "We get a quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down."

"We'll be coordinating with our legal team to see what action we can take," Graham said.

Sometimes I wonder if the Burning Man organization is actually a satirical performance art project about willful misunderstanding and abuse of copyright and trademark law. But if that was what was going on, they'd probably be funnier.

Previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 18:16


by jwz
A few weeks ago, some shitheel glued up signs in my building's lobby reading "THIS BUILDING IS MONITORED BY CLOSED-CIRCUIT CAMERAS". Presumably this was a shitheel from the building management company that my homeowner's association hired, but who can tell.

These signs irk me. They irk me good.

First, what a waste of effort. Does anyone think that these signs will actually change anyones' behavior? Is there anyone in the world who might have reason to be concerned about whether they are being recorded who would not understand what the big black dome indicated?

Second, these signs are both on the outside and inside of the door. That's right, they're not facing only at the street, but also inward to the lobby, to which only people with a key have access. Someone might generously assume that the shitheel who put up this sign did so in some misguided hope that it might prevent the homeless from sleeping in our alcove -- as if that would work -- it's not like they're trying to hide the fact that they're sleeping there. "We have video of you sleeping." "Ok..." But no, they're pointing the sign at me too. They think that I need to be reminded that I'm being recorded.

Third, the purpose of signs like this is merely to instill unease. They are fnords. You are to see them and have a little twinge. As if Jesus Christ Himself leaned down from his home on Mount Olympus and flicked your ear while saying BE GOOD. Some shitheel spent my HOA money to insult me.

Fourth, I've lived in this building for a long-assed time, and I'm like 99% sure that those cameras are not actually hooked up to anything, so it's a lie from start to finish.

Fifth, ubiquitous surveillance sucks, and asymmetric surveillance sucks even more. If these cameras are actually being monitored, by whom? Because as a condo owner in this building, I'm a not-insigificant-percentage owner of these cameras, so why can't I watch the feed too? If you're looking at me, I should be able to look right back. (I've asked these questions of the HOA, years ago. I never got any answers.)

Sixth, if there was some triggering incident for these signs going up, I think it's safe to say that, without knowing any details, we can summarize it as, "Something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done."

Anyway, yeah, I hate these signs a lot. But instead of just tearing them down, as was my first instinct, I made some alterations instead. For the outward-facing sign, I added


and for the inward-facing sign, I added


After a couple of days, someone peeled them off. Hey, that's cool, my label printer has a lot of tape left in it, and I had already printed a few others in anticipation of this:







(Feel free to add your suggestions below.)

Anyway, someone has been peeling these off every day or two, and I keep putting them back. I'm really curious who is doing it, though, and why. I suppose it's possible that it's some other condo owner who is both not offended by the original sign, and doesn't think I'm funny, but, I don't even know how to process that. Can there be such a person?

I think that a much more likely explanation is that it's one of the despicable real estate agents who darken our doorway on an almost-daily basis. I'll bet one of these shitbags looks at that surveillance sign and thinks that this is going to be a selling point to whatever new-Twitter-hire South Bay dudebro he's trying to foist off an overpriced condo on, and dammit he has a hard enough time already convincing this manchild that this hideous, filthy neighborhood isn't dangerous, and he doesn't need my sarcasm costing him the sale.

At least, I hope so. I hope a little vein pops out on his forehead every time he's scraping one of these labels off with fingernails bitten to the quick.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 18:07

Children Beating Up Robot Inspires New Escape Maneuver System

by jwz

"Helper often speaks of the coming war between man and the brotherhood of machines."

According to the study, "Escaping from Children's Abuse of Social Robots," obstruction like this wasn't nearly the worst of it. The tots' behavior often escalated, and sometimes they'd get violent, hitting and kicking Robovie. They also engaged in verbal abuse, calling the robot "bad words." [...]

Next, they designed an abuse-evading algorithm to help the robot avoid situations where tiny humans might gang up on it. Literally tiny humans: the robot is programmed to run away from people who are below a certain height and escape in the direction of taller people. When it encounters a human, the system calculates the probability of abuse based on interaction time, pedestrian density, and the presence of people above or below 4 feet 6 inches in height. If the robot is statistically in danger, it changes its course towards a more crowded area or a taller person. This ensures that an adult is there to intervene when one of the little brats decides to pound the robot's head with a bottle (which only happened a couple times). [...]

When questioned, 74 percent of the kids described the robot as "human-like" and only 13 percent as "machine-like." Half of them said that they believed that their behavior was "stressful or painful" for the robot. So basically, most of these kids perceive the robot they're abusing as lifelike, and then just go ahead and abuse it anyway. While that's a little disturbing, it appears to be in line with some child psychology research on animal abuse.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 17:59

Google ordered to remove links to 'right to be forgotten' removal stories

by jwz
It's takedown notices all the way down. Takedown notices and turtles.

Google has been ordered by the Information Commissioner's office to remove nine links to current news stories about older reports which themselves were removed from search results under the 'right to be forgotten' ruling.

The search engine had previously removed links relating to a 10 year-old criminal offence by an individual after requests made under the right to be forgotten ruling. Removal of those links from Google's search results for the claimant's name spurred new news posts detailing the removals, which were then indexed by Google's search engine.

Google refused to remove links to these later news posts, which included details of the original criminal offence, despite them forming part of search results for the claimant's name, arguing that they are an essential part of a recent news story and in the public interest.

23 Oct 17:58

These companies are both destroying the personal lives of their employees and getting nothing in return.

by jwz
Many people believe that weekends and the 40-hour workweek are some sort of great compromise between capitalism and hedonism.

You might think: but if you had prioritized those things, wouldn't your contributions have been reduced? Would Facebook have been less successful?

Actually, I believe I would have been more effective: a better leader and a more focused employee. I would have had fewer panic attacks, and acute health problems  --  like throwing out my back regularly in my early 20s. I would have picked fewer petty fights with my peers in the organization, because I would have been generally more centered and self-reflective. I would have been less frustrated and resentful when things went wrong, and required me to put in even more hours to deal with a local crisis. In short, I would have had more energy and spent it in smarter ways... AND I would have been happier. That's why this is a true regret for me: I don't feel like I chose between two worthy outcomes. No, I made a foolish sacrifice on both sides. [...]

Many people believe that weekends and the 40-hour workweek are some sort of great compromise between capitalism and hedonism, but that's not historically accurate. They are actually the carefully considered outcome of profit-maximizing research by Henry Ford in the early part of the 20th century. He discovered that you could actually get more output out of people by having them work fewer days and fewer hours. Since then, other researchers have continued to study this phenomenon, including in more modern industries like game development.

The research is clear: beyond ~40 -- 50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative. We have also demonstrated that though you can get more output for a few weeks during "crunch time" you still ultimately pay for it later when people inevitably need to recover. If you try to sustain crunch time for longer than that, you are merely creating the illusion of increased velocity. This is true at multiple levels of abstraction: the hours worked per week, the number of consecutive minutes of focus vs. rest time in a given session, and the amount of vacation days you take in a year.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

23 Oct 16:14

Harvest Quilt Show

Date(s): October 24-25, 2015

Address: Avon Congregational Church, 6 West Main St., Avon, CT 06001.


While browsing, enjoy more than 280 quilts, from the latest of mixed media art quilts to antique quilts.

03 Aug 02:37

dgit 1.0 released

by corbet
Ian Jackson has announced the availability of dgit 1.0. "dgit allows you to treat the Debian archive as if it were a git repository, and get a git view of any package. If you have the appropriate access rights you can do builds and uploads from git, and other dgit users will see your git history."
02 Jun 06:39

Rust 1.0 released

by corbet
Version 1.0 of the Rust language has been released. "The 1.0 release marks the end of that churn. This release is the official beginning of our commitment to stability, and as such it offers a firm foundation for building applications and libraries. From this point forward, breaking changes are largely out of scope (some minor caveats apply, such as compiler bugs). That said, releasing 1.0 doesn’t mean that the Rust language is “done”. We have many improvements in store. In fact, the Nightly builds of Rust already demonstrate improvements to compile times (with more to come) and includes work on new APIs and language features, like std::fs and associated constants."
02 Jun 06:38

[$] The programming talent myth

by jake
[Jacob Kaplan-Moss]

Jacob Kaplan-Moss is known for his work on Django but, as he would describe in his PyCon 2015 keynote, many think he had more to do with its creation than he actually did. While his talk ranged quite a bit, the theme covered something that software development organizations—and open source projects—may be grappling with: a myth about developer performance and how it impacts the industry. It was a thought-provoking talk that was frequently punctuated by applause; these are the kinds of issues that the Python community tries to confront head on, so the talk was aimed well.

16 Feb 00:33


by Lunarbaboon

16 Feb 00:32


by Lunarbaboon

16 Feb 00:26


by Lunarbaboon

15 Feb 23:35

Misfortune Teller

by Kristian

Of course, he then sued her for inaccurate fortune telling, and won - but spent all his millions on booze anyway.

You should be able to decipher this one, hopefully! Maybe the colors will help.

Also, for a bit of serious talk: Tomorrow I’ll know if my day job gets outsourced to Lithuania. Go here if you want to make sure I have money for food: Support Optipess on Patreon.

Edit February 18th: Well, that didn’t go too well. No new comic until next week as I need time to sort stuff out.

28 Oct 01:15

Red Bulls

by Justin Boyd

Red Bulls

Don’t worry, I’m still drinking Monsters. Just wanted to switch up which energy drinks are consumed in the Invisible Bread universe!

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20 Oct 02:42

A Message From the Future

by Kristian

He also brought a 2055 sports almanac, primarily just to smack his younger self over the head for no particular reason.

This comic strip was made in the past, unveiled for you to read right now in the present! Also, check out some more time travel comics.

20 Oct 02:40


by Justin Boyd


I finally beat Far Cry 3 over the weekend, so yay! Now I’m working on Blood Dragon, then onward to the many other titles in my Steam library.


Thanks for all the birthday wishes!

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20 Oct 02:40

News flash: "anonymized" data sets aren't.

by jwz
Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset

There has been a lot of online comment recently about a dataset released by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. It contains details about every taxi ride (yellow cabs) in New York in 2013, including the pickup and drop off times, locations, fare and tip amounts, as well as anonymized (hashed) versions of the taxi's license and medallion numbers. It was obtained via a FOIL request earlier this year and has been making waves in the hacker community ever since.

The release of this data in this unalloyed format raises several privacy concerns. The most well-documented of these deals with the hash function used to "anonymize" the license and medallion numbers. A bit of lateral thinking from one civic hacker and the data was completely de-anonymized. This data can now be used to calculate, for example, any driver's annual income. More disquieting, though, in my opinion, is the privacy risk to passengers. With only a small amount of auxiliary knowledge, using this dataset an attacker could identify where an individual went, how much they paid, weekly habits, etc. I will demonstrate how easy this is to do in the following section.

tl/dr: Jessica Alba didn't tip.

Previously, previously, previously.

12 Oct 02:23

Husband-Pleasing Egg Salad

by Lynn Gardner
The Husband has enjoyed a brief but torrid love affair with a local deli's egg salad. I've tried, over the past six months, to return his eggy affections to our kitchen, where his gastronomic heart should rightly lie, and I've failed every time. Until Sunday. Sunday I brought out the big guns. The irresistible charm. The foolproof seducer.

That's right! I pulled out my copy of The Cook's Country Cookbook: Rediscovering American Home Cooking with 500 Classic, Regional, and Heirloom Recipes (Boston Common Press, 2007). Apparently, to a man who adores a straight-forward no-frills egg salad its "Classic Egg Salad" is irresistibly delicious. The best egg salad he's ever eaten, he said.


Cook's Country recommends dicing the eggs into medium-sized pieces but I stuck with my preferred mash-them-with-a-pastry-blender-until-they-look-right method. I also used dried parsley instead of fresh as I had none on hand. It all worked out deliciously and I will, obviously, be making it regularly.

07 Oct 19:17

Dirtbag Aslan

by jwz
Mallory Ortberg:

"Why, sir?" said Lucy. "I think -- I don't know but I think I could be brave enough."

"Because you're like fucking six years old," Aslan said.

"I -- " Lucy began.

"Fine, though," Aslan said, visibly irritated. "Take your shitty dagger and join the battle, where everyone else has magic and spears, let me know how far you get before someone stabs you right in the lungs."

Lucy didn't move.

"I'm not kidding around," he said. "Go stand in the front line."

Lucy moved, trembling, to join the other soldiers.

"Does anyone else have shit to say about my presents I got them," Aslan asked.

No one did.

Previously, previously.

05 Oct 21:38


by Lunarbaboon

05 Oct 21:34

Tough Guy Scientists

by tga


20 Sep 03:57

PokerStars Coming to New Jersey?

Senator Says The Greenlight to be Given in "Weeks not months"
20 Sep 03:52

As Above So Below

by jwz
The new Tomb Raider movie, As Above So Below, is actually pretty good! I was skeptical, since I find "shaky-cam" to be a pretty worn out technique at this point, but the cam is not super-shaky, and there are multiple cams so it doesn't go all FPS.

As is traditional in every action or horror movie with a female protagonist, they felt the need to front-load it with lots of Daddy Issues, which was irritating -- what if every Dwayne Johnson or Bruce Willis movie started with a flashback scene of Mommy didn't really love me!, as if to say "muscle-bound action man can't have any personal agency unless he's still sucking his thumb over his childhood" -- that would get pretty tired pretty fast, right? Just fucking stop it. Please.

Anyway, despite that rocky start, it had some solid scares, some absolutely terrifying claustrophobia rivaling The Descent, and the ending was weird and didn't wrap everything up into a neat little bow. I liked it.

Actually, it reminded me more of the book The Descent, by Jeff Long, than of the movie of the same name (which have nothing to do with each other.)

20 Sep 03:49

The trees are falling apart!

by Georgia Dunn


08 Sep 00:41

A Little Extra

by Justin Boyd

A Little Extra

Without fail.


Salt Lake Comic Con!

Table Black 35!

I’m THERE this weekend!

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