Articles, Page 13 of 204

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25 Jan 12

Lucky Country

After watching the 2012 State of the Union Address, I think that somehow we have done it again: in the crisis management tradition of Washington, Lincon, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.

In spite of having an absolutely atrocious election system that would seem to prevent any person of ability and integrity from making it to the top, we can see now with a little hindsight that once again the USA has faced a dire national crisis by placing exactly the right type of person in the President’s Office. How do we keep doing that?

25 Jan 12

Shutdown of Megaupload Site

If you follow the government’s logic, shutting down the file-sharing website Megaupload is going to make a dent in on-line piracy. Granted site was a cornucopia of all the dark seedy things generally frowned upon – pirated video games, movies, TV shows and porn – but all of this stuff existed before and will continue again. As a testament to just how much volume the site generated, investigators estimate Megaupload drove enough traffic through ads and fees to earn $175 million. Of course the action has driven the usual response across the Internet. The hackers have gotten their feathers all ruffled up and spun the Anonymous hacks left, right and sideways against federal websites. More annoyingly, companies having any sort of file-sharing twist are crippling their own services to avoid similar indictments and lawsuits. How different is sharing files through DropBox or Google Documents, really?

16 Jan 12

NSA Releases SELinux for Android

SELinux was released ages ago by the National Security Agency to tighten up security on the popular, open-source operating system. The work set up ACLs around nearly everything in the OS and much to the chagrin of regular users, had a configuration so undocumented and difficult that most people just tend to turn it off. Given the rampant external rooting of Android and malware plaguing app stores, it was only a matter of time before SELinux has been brought to the Android platform. Given the NSA’s mandate for securing strategic, national communications, it would seem Android is the government’s chosen platform for future federal and military use.

16 Jan 12

Colbert's Faux Presidential Run

Thus far, the Republican party has put out an incredibly weak showing of candidates to pit against Obama for the next election. They’ve been so bad that when comedian Stephen Colbert announced his exploratory committee for election candidacy, it makes one pause and wonder – would he actually be competitive given name recognition and general political disgust? The theme may have been the subject of Robin Williams’ comedy Man Of The Year but given the present political scene and the absolute distaste Americans are holding for professional politicians, Colbert’s joke just may go further than he thinks.

13 Jan 12

Music Purchase Log: 2011 Q4

Music I purchased in the fourth quarter of 2011:

  • Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto – A lot of great tunes with a few blahs – like most of their albums.
  • Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song – Starts promisingly, but I find it hard to get through the whole album. Particularly when they get all … well, just listen the verses on “Naked Kids” and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Nothingface – An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity – A little like Helmet, but with the hardcore edge.
  • MuteMath – Odd Soul – Fantastic indie rock album. (Tip ’o the hat to Zach for turning me on to them.)
  • Opeth – Heritage – They abandon the hardcore screams on this one. The album is still really great … but I miss the occasional growl.
13 Jan 12

Doomsday Clock Advanced

p. The Doomsday Clock has been showing mankind’s precipitous proximity to self-imposed apocalypse since 1947. Although nuclear holocaust was the primary driver during the Cold War of it’s figurative midnight alarm, the clock itself is tied to many factors such as climate, economics and science. Mankind was closest to obliterating itself in between 1953 and 1960 when the clock showed two minutes to midnight and had backed all the way to seventeen minutes to midnight during the ‘90s. The clock has slowly been moving back towards midnight with a recent adjustment to advance within five minutes. For reasons including corporate carbon output, failure to ratify weapons treaties and other concerns, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists commented on the clock’s advancement:

05 Jan 12

Help Teach a Fledgling Cryptographer

So I was e-mailed a crypto puzzle the other day with a challenge – decrypt this. It’s coming from a high school student looking to learn more about the subject of cryptology. I thought I’d post it here for two purposes:

  1. Nerds – try your hand at decrypting something.
  2. Nerds – help point him in the right direction to learn more.

Fortunately, he has provided the key as well but relies on keeping the algorithm itself a secret. Bash away, but please do so constructively.


Kfpmt Nczy, kfdn mdq fhksjktk wkav olbxaim. Qj zxb dgw onc pl poob ipd rjet sere rw pevjea. Fqst tgv pf rpt noc dcvx.

03 Jan 12

Top OmniNerd Content of 2011

As 2012 begins, OmniNerd enters it’s eighth year of existence. Here’s a quick look back at the site’s changes and some of the top content from 2011 in various categories.

Visually, OmniNerd didn’t change too much but there were major changes to the site unseen to the naked eye. Mark converted the entire architecture to Rails 3.1 and migrated us to new hardware to keep up with the times. Matt added some moderator tools to deal with spammers along with the “Looking Glass” feature to revisit content from 1, 3 and 5 years past. Additionally, the promotion links were changed to better support FaceBook Sharing and Google “+1s”. Our nerds contributed 193 new articles, 38 links, 16 books and 41 polls all while debating each other with 1793 comments.

26 Dec 11

Protesters as Person of the Year

2011 is certainly not the first year that Time magazine elected to not highlight a particular individual but rather an entire class of individuals. For 2011, Time chose “the protester” as its Person of the Year. Given the events of 2011, that spans Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other outbreaks across the globe. A worthy choice or editorial cop-out?

24 Dec 11

Violence in Egypt, Syria and Yemen

Uh huh … tell me again NATO wasn’t in Libya just for the oil. I believe I was told by the OmniNerd population (or maybe just one individual – you know who you are) that we were there to protect human rights and suppress violent outlashes from the governments. In the past two weeks alone, the violence and bloodshed that have increased in Egypt, Syria and Yemen seem to prove to me that you are absolutely wrong.

23 Dec 11

Concert Go-er Types

My wife gave me a little binder to hold my ticket stubs a while back. It’s chock-full mostly of faded and worn paper bits from the concert scene of the lat 90s. Growing up in Dallas I went to see either Tripping Daisy, Hagfish, Course of Empire, The Toadies, or Reverend Horton Heat1 on a weekly basis, it seemed. I still have the Dr. Martens on which I spent all of my extra cash to survive the mosh pits. Yes, I was one of those.

Speaking of stereotypes (or maybe just of types), I put together this list (in the order they occurred to me) of the various kinds of people I encountered at concerts in those days. It’s been over a decade, but something tells me things haven’t changed much…

23 Dec 11

Unfinished: Clarity on Differences in Modern Christianity on the Nature of God

DISCLAIMER: For the second time I’m going to post something I didn’t finish – and I don’t anticipate finishing. I’m throwing this out there without even knowing if I even really agree with all of it. But it might generate some discussion … right?


I’ve often had occasion to argue the differences in the Latter-day Saint and Protestant/Catholic beliefs on the nature of God, but recently it’s been from a new angle. Instead of arguing the biblical support of LDS doctrine to those securely fastened to biblical infallibility, I’ve found myself arguing to those without religious faith of any kind that differences between the beliefs of Latter-day Saints and “mainstream Christians” do not invalidate LDS doctrine. It’s interesting to note the way the approaches differ when talking to each group. The Protestant/Christian approach is:

14 Dec 11

Carrier IQ Saga Continues

About a month ago, hacker Trevor Eckhart began exploring Android smartphone security and came across a piece of embedded software from CarrierIQ. He more or less reverse engineered components of it in conjunction with documents obtained from their website about its features and determined that for all intents and purposes, it was a rootkit.1 This created a huge buzz about the prevalence of the software as it is installed on virtually every smartphone from Android to iPhone with varying degrees of logging performed. Now, the point of the software was to permit telecommunications carriers to monitor performance of handsets on their networks to provide better service. The question really begged … how does logging my keystrokes, recording my text messages, provide remote access, etc help the network? At first, the company tried to censor the researcher for revealing the extent to which their software monitored phone owners. After the EFF stepped in to protect him, CarrierIQ instead came forward with a 19 page pdf response on their software even specifically addressing a recent FOIA request to the FBI for it’s use of CarrierIQ data. The FBI, rather than deny they utilized CarrierIQ’s information simply refuses to release records about it. Despite CarrierIQ’s continued denial the software does things like log keystrokes, Trevor Eckhart demonstrates that it does exactly that in his Carrier IQ Part #2 analysis (which is also presented on the YouTube video above for those not interested in reading).

13 Dec 11

Utility of Standardized Testing

Are standardized tests really providing value in quantifying a student’s academic ability or future potential? A Florida board of education member was curious about that very question so he arranged to take the FCAT himself to identify with the students on both its validity and problems.

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

12 Dec 11

RQ-170 Downed in Iran

One of American’s not hostile drones has been captured by the Iranians after it crashed 140 miles into their country (off the Afghanistan border). It’s a model known as the RQ-170 and is now being associated to über-secret CIA efforts to monitor Iranian nuclear development. Since the crash, Iran has released a video showing Iranian officials examining the captured drone on display. As one might assume, the US government has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the video given the seemingly intact nature of the drone despite crashing from over 50,000 feet. Higher resolution pictures from TheAviationist show little to no damage at all on the displayed drone with only minor abrasions to the lower wing and what appears to be putty work. Stories have varied as to the reasoning for the drone’s loss ranging from Iran claiming to have shot it down to have hacked it’s C2 causing the crash. Regardless of the reason, adversaries are chomping at the bit to reverse engineer the technologies on board.

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