Articles, Page 10 of 217

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14 Aug 15

Clinton's Classified Emails

It’s hard these days to not be aware of the e-mail handling accusations against the former Secretary of State. Claims have gone back and forth about never handling classified information, how does one conduct state business without anything being classified, that multiple email accounts were too difficult, that coincidentally everything about topic A, B, or C was deleted, etc. etc. Of course there are ironic things such as the State Department cable issued by Clinton advising personnel about the security threats of using private, personal email accounts. A fairly decent timeline of the shenanigans was compiled by the Washington Post. The latest development finds there were Top Secret emails on her server after all, to include details of drone use.

01 Mar 15

Equation Group ... Wow

Kaspersky Labs, the well known Russian anti-virus security research and anti-virus company recently dropped a bombshell of a report onto the community. Equation Group : Questions and Answers (pdf) details an advanced persistent threat (APT) unlike anything seen before. Kaspersky even goes as far as alluding to a relationship between previously discovered malware – Stuxnet – based on correlated techniques and infrastructure. Too bad the US already admitted to being behind Stuxnet. The most amazing part of the malware, aside from lasting more than a decade undetected, was revealed to be an ability to infect hard drive firmware – basically allowing the APT to recover itself even if the drive is completely formatted with a freshly installed operating system. There’s basically no way to know if the hard drive is compromised, a struggle that is baffling security admins everywhere.

13 Feb 15

Gas Pump Hacking

I’ve been chatting with my colleagues about how this process works for awhile and how it ought to be relatively easy to corrupt. For starters, think of the gas-point programs that many supermarkets offer. You buy at their supermarket where every spent dollar equals a point and then 100 points saves you 10¢. You show up at the gas station and swipe this card and without interaction from the station owner, the pump automatically lowers the price per gallon. At first, one would think this only works because each station has explicitly configured their pumps to work with only certain programs – which makes sense – but how technical are all of these station owners? This process needs to be dirt simple and largely self configuring.

10 Feb 15

Science Nerds, Assemble!

So, I’m working on a sci-fi adventure story in the vein of Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Therefore, I’m not going to get too crazy with the hard-core science of super-realistic space travel (like, if you’ve read the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons you know what I mean.) But I also don’t want my pulled-out-of-my-ass made-up technology to be so stupid that it pulls people with a better-than-passing knowledge of physics out of the story. So I submit to you, dear science nerds, a bit of my BS tech for your consideration.

04 Feb 15

Taxing Prior Year Returns

Amongst other things – does anybody else find it particularly wrong for the government to be able to tax your prior year’s return? After all, that return is based on an overpayment of taxes to the government for that year’s income. It is not “new income”, it’s simply “already taxed income that has nothing to do with the current year”. Hence, it just seems like a double tax.

04 Feb 15

So Few Diesel Options in America

There’s no real doubt that diesel engines are far and away the most efficient powerplant to put into vehicles. For instance, simply dropping a 4BT into a Jeep Wrangler doubled its fuel economy. In fact, most manufacturers do make diesel variants of US vehicles for the rest of the world – Wranglers (30mpg), Mini Coopers (60mpg), HiLux (25mpg), and even entire swaths of the Ford product line have export only, diesel variants.

What is holding back these engines such that everyone else can enjoy diesel fuel economy? According to Toyota’s Chief Engineer, the United States’ self-imposed LEV III standard adds $3000 of emissions equipment per vehicle that simply isn’t worth the investment for only the United States. This is, according to Toyota, why there will not be a diesel powered Tacoma in 2016 as rumors had led enthusiasts to believe. A similar comment was once fed back by Mini Cooper engineers, that the added hardware required for DEF was too big for the little car’s already packed space. Other manufacturers were on course to produce American diesels but stopped (like the Jeep Liberty) in 2007 when these laws were passed. Now, diesel can generally be obtained only in the higher end models of a product where the company assumes a consumer is already spending big money.

31 Jan 15

Genetic Hardware Evolution

Genetic Algorithms, “are a way of solving problems by mimicking the same processes mother nature uses. They use the same combination of selection, recombination and mutation to evolve a solution to a problem.” They’ve often been used in software but have largely not been applied to hardware. Enter Dr. Adrian Thompson and some 100 cell FPGAs. He created an experiment where a computer would analyze the evolution of an FPGA configuration over time until it could reliably differentiate between two tones (and later two voice commands). After nearly 4000 evolutions, Dr. Thompson’s creation demonstrated a peculiar quirk of the process – unexplainable hardware nuances themselves became part of the design. For instance, the final candidate included some logical loops that were never actually part of the circuit – but removing them results in the chip’s failure. More so, putting the same configuration onto another chip resulted in failure. The algorithm literally adapted to magnetic flux, a “gray area” between transistor ON/OFF states, and other performance quirks of its native FPGA host in order to fulfill its task.

28 Jan 15

American Sniper

American Sniper is currently raking in money across theaters and has touched many nerves with the public. For the most part, the movie is very well received in its honoring of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, its visual accuracy of the OIF experience, and its portrayal of the family strife veterans face at home. On the other hand, the movie has also stirred a lot of controversy with various talking heads blasting at snipers as cowards or the SEAL himself as a sociopathic killer. American Sniper has definitely become a culturally dividing movie, though one that is still highly regarded cinematically no matter which camp a viewer falls into.

21 Jan 15

Tips for Helping Children Deal With Divorce

Fellow OmniNerds – looking for advice with regards to properly helping young children (age 4) handle divorce. At what age do they “get it” with regards to what happened? Should they get therapy? What are some pros/cons to different scheduling methods? What are some of the toughest questions children will ask?

To help our generic readers, the comments could certainly pertain to both full custody and split custody situations.

21 Jan 15

Project Blue Book Available

Recently, the CIA acknowledged their U2 flights accounted for nearly half of the UFO sightings across two decades. The other record of UFOs resides at the National Archives in Project BLUE BOOK. It used to require an in-person journey to DC in order to conduct any research. Now, the entire compendium of the Air Force’s documentation on UFOs is available to the masses on-line. Of course, my encounter’s with UFOs are not documented there – clearly the sign of either a government conspiracy or the pending Great Purge via alien overlords.

18 Jan 15

How to Post YouTube Video on OmniNerd

YouTube has changed some things up on their site and no longer offers the clickable “old style” HTML embeddable code for their videos. But you can still do it easily on OmniNerd for your news posts. As a quick example, we will embed the George Washington video clip by Brad Neely into this article.

The OmniNerd syntax for embedding a video is:


Now you can’t take the URL directly from the YouTube titlebar. All you need is its content ID and then insert it into the older code YouTube used to provide.

18 Jan 15

Dragons Versus Apaches

Usually you hear people talking about the zombie apocalypse in terms of what weapons would best be applied, etc. Not the Smithsonian. Those sons-of-bitches went big and sent the rest of us home. Zombies? They saw your Zombie and raised you dragons. Rifles? Again … chump weapons, how about an AH-64 Apache with Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chaingun. The bottom line is the dragon pretty much wins unless the Apache fires every single Hellfire at once.

13 Jan 15

Silk Road Reloaded

The first Silk Road used to be the go to hub for all things dark and illegal lurking on the Internet – drugs, weapons, identities, etc. What was intriguing about it was the use of many technologies for anonymizing the participants such as Tor, Bitcoin, etc. But it was, of course, a target of the government and the whole thing came crashing down. Some attempts were made to resume its operation with Silk Road 2.0 but that effort did not make it very far.

10 Jan 15

PTSD Veterans and Gun Ownership

I am faced with a dilemma. Do I allow my PTSD claim with the VA (which they are overdue on by 3.5 years since submission) to come to fruition or do I cancel it and forego the covered care? It seems like an obvious choice – get the care.

But I am a gun owner. I enjoy sport shooting. It’s actually quite therapeutic. But PTSD is considered mental illness. Many states have passed laws like New York’s SAFE Act that would make me a felon for possessing my firearms after being diagnosed with PTSD – also making me ineligible to buy and even allowing the police to come to my home and seize the weapons w/o compensation. There are policies in place where the VA is somewhat attempting to protect its veterans by denying the entry of its PTSD compensated veterans into these national databases. After all, most veterans can safely handle firearms and enjoy them – hence why many were in the military in the first place. Such practices will lead many to never seek care. Studies, naturally, show both sides are correct. Some show that the link between mental illness and gun violence is merely a myth while others advocate that stricter mental illness restrictions be imposed on firearm ownership.

05 Jan 15

Fingerprint Forging from Photographs

Biometrics are becoming increasingly popular as security mechanisms – visa terminals, smartphones, etc. The premise, of course, is that certain characteristics of a person are globally unique and therefore serve as both an identifier and authenticator. Therein lies an access vector for thieves. For years, movies have depicted the easiest method for fingerprint defeating simply by cutting people’s fingers off. But now, hacker Jan Krissler, demonstrated the ability to clone fingerprints of famous people (a politician for his demo) using nothing but high resolution photographs available all over the Internet.

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