Category Archives: Technology

I have been working in Technology since 2003 where my first project was building and maintaining an online community for a circle of friends to maintain contact after high school. It was a somewhat crude form of what we now call “Social Networks” but it worked (mostly) and ran for several years before being retired.

Despite technology being my primary occupation and main source of income, when it comes to blogging I have primarily been focused on Pseudo-science. I hope to change this in the near future and possibly create a dedicated technology section on this site.

Goodbye Netflix, Piracy still makes sense.

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since 2014 and while I see no issue with torrenting media I’m also happy to pay a fair price for quality content. In-fact many of the DVDs and Blu-Rays that I’ve purchased over the years are a result of me having previously seen the content elsewhere either by piracy download, loan of physical copy or TV broadcast. The best thing you can do for a content creator is to share their work so others can learn of it.

However in Australia consumers who pay for content can be punished for it. Four years ago I encountered region locking on some DVDs that I had purchased in the UK which wouldn’t play in Australia. Of course that wasn’t the first time I had encountered region locking and it hasn’t been the last.

Now four years later I have encountered another hurdle while attempting to purchase content from Netflix.

netflix-block-min

This did not happen previously, in the past Netflix has been happy to take my money and provide the service that I paid for. But since January this year Netflix has been cracking down on VPN services. It is only today that I found my own VPN blocked.

Since I access the internet exclusively via a VPN (as everyone should) this all but shuts me out of Netflix. Because my internet traffic is routed via the United States I have in the past been able to pay for and receive the same service as a person in the US, until now.

So the result is that I am no longer a Netflix customer. Because even if I were to split tunnel out of my VPN to connect to Netflix locally I would be shoved into the inferior Australian service rather than continuing to enjoy the much larger US catalogue that I’ve been using since before Netflix even came to Australia.

Why should I continue paying for what is now an inferior service?

With Region locked media, Geo(and VPN)blocking, Digital Rights Management and all the other crap (such as un-skippable trailers) that consumers have to deal with when they pay for content. Going to a torrent site and pirating your favourite content still makes a lot more sense than trying to pay for it.

Ad-blocking is essential for your privacy and security on the web.

Adblocking software has been in the news quite a bit recently due to their increasing popularity.

Guillermo Beltrà spends a lot of time surfing the web.

Yet like many avid Internet users, Mr. Beltrà hates the annoying pop-up advertisements that litter many websites. “It’s just very cumbersome,” he said.

So like a growing number of people, Mr. Beltrà, a Spaniard who works for a consumer protection organization in Brussels, decided to block them by downloading software for his desktop browser that removed any online advertising from his daily Internet activity.

While he acknowledged that advertising was often the primary source of income for many websites, Mr. Beltrà said he remained wary of how much data companies were collecting on his online activities. Mark Scott, New York Times, Blog

I have long advocated the blocking of advertising network because while many user find advertisements “Annoying” there is a far more sinister side to advertising that marketers would rather you didn’t know about.

Unknown to many users is the fact that many advertising networks embed spyware that is designed to track you across the Internet with every website you visit. They do this by embedding trackers into the advertisement that your browser then loads whenever you vist Website X using Advertising Network Z. Now when you visit Website Y who just happens to be using Advertising Network Z you are instantly identified as the person who visited Website X earlier.

But the thing that surprises most people is just how many trackers an otherwise innocent website may harbour. Let’s take a quick sample; I am using the browser extension Ghostery to show detected trackers in the purple box bottom right. (Click Images to Enlarge them.)

So CNN has 18 Trackers and The Daily Telegraph has 26 Trackers setup to betray their readers privacy, and these are only the trackers that Ghostery is able to detect.

Let’s check the last site again with both trackers and advertisements blocked:

Now we can see that AdBlockPlus has removed 23 of the 26 trackers and all the advertisments. Ghostery has detected and blocked the three remaining trackers.

These are only two websites on the Internet that I have chosen to demo for no particular reason. There is nothing abnormal about the behaviour of these sites, it is now a common practice for website operators to install malware (spyware) into websites for commercial gain because there is a lot of money to be made in violating your privacy.

It wasn’t always like this. Advertising didn’t used to involve malicious action towards the end user. Although advertisements have always been annoying it is only over the course of the past decade that they have become a specific threat that users need to block by default.

Fortunately there is a way to block most of these trackers. I highly recommend everybody install AdBlock Plus and Ghostery into their browser. Both programs are free and both will block trackers. Ghostery in particular will give you an alarming insight into just how many trackers are being used to invade your privacy. I have been using both programs for years and would not consider browsing the Internet without either of them.

Opposition to Password Managers is Opposition to Security.

These days password managers are becoming popular security tools for end users to manage their passwords. The most popular solutions available to consumers are Lastpass, Dashlane, KeePass, 1Password and RoboForm. These applications enable their users to create unique-strong passwords for all their online accounts and store them in an encrypted database to keep them safe.

I personally have more than 3,200 credentials stored in multiple encrypted databases. The databases I manage include everything from Electronic copies of my passports, access for this blog, DNS Servers, Email accounts, service providers, application credentials, domain registrars, Encryption/Decryption keys, private x.509 keys, remote access to alarm and CCTV systems and more.

I have worked in IT since 2003, even with only part time contract work the amount to credentials that I have needed to store is phenomenal and if I didn’t clean out the database could be significantly larger than it currently is.

Password managers have become an essential way of life for me. There simply is no alternative when you need to manage so many systems/services, and those credentials need to be kept secure. Of the 3,200+ credentials in storage at least 200-300 of them are for personal use such as, Facebook, Youtube, eBay and anything else I’ve created an account for over 10+ years.

Password Management software is perhaps our best hope for getting users out of the habit of picking weak passwords or reusing the same passwords on multiple services. So it is frustrating to discover that in 2015 some companies are deliberate preventing their users from using password managers.

As if educating users not to write passwords down or reuse passwords in multiple places is not already a challenge. The fact that British Gas has gone out of its way to prevent their customers from using a Password Manager to keep unique passwords safe really shows how out of touch with the modern world they are. Perhaps British Gas would prefer their users to resort to Post-It notes on the monitor?

Boycotting Indonesia over #Bali9 reeks of hypocrisy.

Last night two convicted Australian drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in Indonesia. In response to the executions two hashtags #BoycottBali and #BoycottIndonesia have started to gain traction by people opposed to the death penalty.

Although I don’t support the death penalty as a form of punishment I think it’s important to point out the hypocrisy of boycotting Indonesia over the death penalty while continuing to use services from the United Sates, which also has the death penalty in 32 states.

I have been asking people to boycott the United States by deleting their Facebook and Twitter accounts since both services are based in California, a death penalty state. However rather than having the integrity to uphold their imaginary position on the moral high ground the left make endless excuses for continuing to use United States based service providers.

There is no such thing as “Defacto Abolitionist” California still has the death penalty on its books a long with 31 other states. In fact the United States has executed 10 people this year already without any moral outcry from Australia. Therefore expressing outrage over the execution of two Australian criminals to the point of boycotting the executing country only to then refuse a boycott of the United States over the death of ten US criminals is to place a higher value on the life of an Australian Citizen then on the life of a US Citizen. 

The old “not as bad as” fallacy even makes an appearance from the left.

It’s true that the United States reserves the death penalty for more severe crimes, such as murder. However the Innocence Project shows us that the United States does occasionally put innocent people on death row. See: Innocence Project Cases

At least Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were guilty of the crime they were punished for. While their guilt doesn’t make the execution right neither does it make the Indonesian death penalty any better or worse than the US death penalty. If you’re going to boycott Indonesia for the death penalty then it stands to reason that you will also delete your Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts and refrain from using Google or watching Hollywood movies.

Unsurprisingly while the political left are happy to boycott Indonesia for the death penalty they will not boycott the United States because it causes them too much inconvenience. Some people only have principles so long as it’s not too hard.

Google Play should delete The Whole Pantry

I spoke previously about how Belle Gibson used her story of cancer survival to raise money for charity though The Whole Pantry and how the money was never handed over. Following revelations that Ms Gibsons likely faked her cancer in order to garner support for her business, Apple has since deleted her “The Whole Panty” app from it’s stores.

Global tech company Apple appears to have buckled to mounting pressure to end its partnership with Melbourne social media entrepreneur Belle Gibson, with her top-rating app vanishing from its smartwatch and iPad promotions. 

The Whole Pantry app has already been pulled from the Apple Store, and Ms Gibson’s book deals have been scrapped by her Australian and international publishers. Customers who purchased the app and cookbook have also demanded refunds. Sydney Morning Herald

Her book by the same name was also canned by publishers in the United Kingdom.

A blogger who gained a huge online following after saying she was beating brain cancer through “nutrition and holistic medicine” rather than conventional treatment has had her book withdrawn from publication after doubts were raised about her claims.

Belle Gibson’s recipe book, The Whole Pantry, was due to be published in the UK by Penguin next month. But the publishing house yesterday revealed it had shelved publication after failing to receive “sufficient explanation” from the Australian author about doubts being cast on her story.

The Independent

Publishing of The Whole Pantry has also stopped in Australia.

Publisher Penguin Random House has stopped printing The Whole Pantry amid uncertainty around whether its author, Belle Gibson, had cancer.

The success her book and smartphone application, which advocates natural therapies, has been largely credited for her high profile as a cancer survivor.

“Despite our best endeavours, we have not received sufficient explanation from Ms Gibson, author of The Whole Pantry recipe book, in response to recent allegations,” Penguin said in a statement.

“As such, we have been left with no other option but to stop supplying the book in Australia.

ABC News

The Whole Pantry is now only available in the Google Play store. Everyone else has stopped selling it due to the fraudulent business of it’s author. The Whole Pantry is such an integral part of the charity scam that deleting it is the only ethical thing to do.

Google’s social media team are active on twitter and do respond to people. However they have not responded to my tweet regarding The Whole Pantry still being on sale. I will continue to push them through other avenues until I at least get a response.

See also: The Whole Pantry Charity Fraud.

Sport is a better culprit for violence than video games.

So it didn’t take long after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings for the politicians to start blaming “Violent Video Games”. In the United States the blame game is in full swing:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) has taken Congress’ first step in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre toward possibly regulating access to violent videogames.

Calls for gun control immediately followed the elementary-school shooting Friday, so it was only a matter of time before violent videogames became another target.

Rockefeller is proposing that the National Academy of Sciences study the relationship between real-world violence and virtual-world violence in videogames. Reading between the lines, the idea is to perhaps acquire conclusive fodder, if there is any, from this prestigious group of scientists that there is an association between the two. Wired, Threat Level

Assholes like Rockefeller have been trying to pin the blame on video games for years. Because it’s a lot easier to demonise video games than it is to tackle the real problems of a society where school shooting have almost become a routine. 

If we’re going to look for something to blame then why not blame sports? It would make much more sense to blame the violence in society on competitive sports, after all sporting events, particularly team sports foster an “Us Vs Them” style of mentality amongst their supporters who even wear the colours and fly the banner of their favourite team.

Throughout the Middle Ages banner men flew the flags and coat of arms of the lords and kings to whom they owed their allegiance. The tradition of flying banners and flags can be seen throughout most of human history and modern day sport, or warfare is no exception.

In Australia sports spectators are quite passive, but in Britain and North America there have been numerous incidents of violence breaking out amongst supporters of opposing teams, including large scale riots. But no one seems to be willing to blame competitive sports for outbreaks of violence. Instead they choose video games as their preferred scapegoat despite the fact the violence and aggression is better linked to sport than it is to video games. Has there ever been a riot resulting from a round of Halo or Counter Strike? None that I know of.

Should we blame sports for the Sandy Hook School shooting?

No, that would be just as absurd as trying to blame video games. But if scumbag politicians want something to blame, then I think team sports are a much more likely culprit than any video game. 

Dawson Drama Queen vs Trolls.

Charlotte Dawson has been in the news recently for being trolled on the Internet. That’s right just for being trolled this drama queen has generated headline across Australia for her alleged victimisation at the hands of some anonymous twitter users.

While I don’t agree with the actions of the trolls I also find it hard to have too much sympathy for Ms Dawson because she went troll feeding.

There is an old saying that goes back at least as far as the 1980s. “Don’t Feed the Trolls”

On the Internet a “Troll” is a person who attempts to incite an emotional response from others by either posting offensive material or performing an action that causes inconvenience and frustration to other users of the medium in use. The best way to deal with trolls is by NOT giving them exactly what they want so they get bored and leave. As someone who’s been dealing with internet trolls since the 90s I can confirm that this is a tried and proven method for dealing with the issue.

However Charlotte Dawson decided to engage with the trolls instead. First mistake, she has also been retweeting some of the trolls messages to her followers. Honestly what sort of moron thinks it’s a good idea to help spread the trolls’ message as far and wide as you can? These trolls are anonymous; as a result ALL publicity is good publicity.

Of course now the politicians are wetting themselves in excitement as they are now given a new excuse to remove free speech and privacy from the public internet.

HATE-filled Twitter trolls who anonymously taunt, threaten or urge their victims to take their own lives are on notice from today.

Today we launch a campaign to stand up to the faceless bullies and to urge Twitter to unmask them and turn them in to authorities so they can be prosecuted.

Kevin Rudd has 1.2 million followers – more than any other federal MP – and he last night committed to the campaign from China with the declaration: “The time has come for us to build a bridge over the trolls.”

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is also behind the campaign: “Cyber bullying is reprehensible and has no place in our society.

“What we need is strong co-operation from governments, law enforcement and the community. But we also need the assistance of US-based social networks.” News.com.au

It quickly gets to the point where the persecuted becomes the persecutor. This is where the #StopTheTrolls comes in. The aim is to bully Twitter into disclosing user details so the Australian Government can punish people for what they said online. That’s right; you can be punished for saying something that upsets people.

People not just trolls, often choose to be anonymous on the Internet because they either don’t believe what they say strongly enough to put their name to it. Or because they face serious consequences for speaking out be it government persecution or litigation.

By removing anonymity and punishing trolls all that will happen is the trolls move to more secure form of anonymity and people with a “legitimate” need of anonymity might not have that option available.  Of course what is or is not a “legitimate” use of anonymity is purely subjective.

Terms like ‘Hate Speech’ are thrown about far too easily in today’s society. But classifying what is and isn’t ‘Hate Speech’ is a value judgement. I have people accuse me of ‘hate speech’ simply for disagreeing with them.  So the idea that the government could or should punish people for something based on opinion of another should be a concern to all Australians, not just trolls.

I deal with ‘trolls’ a fair bit. What I post online tends to attract them and it’s the reason user comments below need to be approved by a moderator before they appear. Yet, I still stand by what I’ve been saying for the last 14 years. Don’t feed the trolls, don’t give them the recognition and attention they crave, they will get bored and leave.

Also don’t do a massive Dawson Drama Queen. That only empowers them.

#Anonymous script kiddie #opBlackout set for failure.

Anonymous, the so called “hacker” group that is in reality just a script kiddie legion of idiots. Has threatened to take the entire internet offline this Saturday, on the 31st of March. They are expecting to do this by launching a Distributed Denial of Service Attack against the Internet’s DNS Root Servers.

These root servers are an essential part of the Internet’s DNS system. Without DNS servers you (or rather your computer) cannot resolve domain names such as Google.com, Microsoft.com or even DanBuzzard.net to their corresponding IP Address, and without the Root Servers the system collapses.

The DNS System has a hierarchy and at the top of the hierarchy is the “root”. Anonymous knows this and has evidently discovered that there are just 13 servers in the root that are responsible for the entire DNS system below them.

To protest SOPA, Wallstreet, our irresponsible leaders and the beloved 
bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs out of 
sheer sadistic fun, On March 31, anonymous will shut the Internet down.
———————————————————————–
In order to shut the Internet down, one thing is to be done. Down the
13 root DNS servers of the Internet.

To protest SOPA, Wallstreet, our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs out of sheer sadistic fun, On March 31, anonymous will shut the Internet down.
———————————————————————–
In order to shut the Internet down, one thing is to be done. Down the13 root DNS servers of the Internet.

….

By cutting these off the Internet, nobody will be able to perform a domain name lookup, thus, disabling the HTTP Internet, which is, after all, the most widely used function of the Web. Anybody entering “http://www.google.com” or ANY other url, will get an error page, thus, they will think the Internet is down, which is, close enough. Remember, this is a protest, we are not trying to ‘kill’ the Internet, we are only temporarily shutting it down where it hurts the most. Some Twat

However the 13 root servers aren’t really just 13 servers, thanks to IP Anycast the 13 IP addresses actually have hundreds if not thousands of servers behind them. The root servers are all asigned letters A through M and I am informed by a very reliable source that the “I.root-servers.net” server with an IP address of 192.36.148.17 exists in no less than 25 different countries; and that’s just one of 13 clusters of servers.

Another problem that Anonymous has is that DNS Records have a cache. For example I set my DNS records to 86400 seconds (24 hours) which means when you visit my blog your computer won’t need to resolve the address www.DanBuzzard.net to its IP address for upto 24 hours so not only would Anonymous need to achive the impossible of knocking down huge server clusters, but they would need to keep them down for a prolonged period of time because DNS caching is a standard practice.

DNS Root response times.

The idea that a bunch of pissed off teenagers could take down the DNS Root is nothing short of laughable. Just because you can DDoS your mates off their home internet connection doesn’t mean you can take on the huge server clusters that makeup each server in the DNS Root. So quit making up stupid shit, you never know someday you might learn something.

A visit to the National Museum of Computing

Back in January I visited the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, England. Unfortunately I was running short of time and didn’t get to look at everything. But here’s most of what a captured with a camera phone. Click the images to enlarge them.

Apple Macintosh -1984 (above). IBM Personal Computer – 1983 (below)Here is an Apple Macintosh, I remember using one of these in school. The Greyscale Monitor is build into the system case and a keyboard and mouse plug into the front. If I remember correctly the power switch is on the back right-hand side (to the user) and is either orange of grey. The all-in-one design that made the Macintosh stand out in 1984 is still popular in modern Apple computers.

The computer below it is an IBM Personal Computer XT, it is the first IBM PC to come with an internal hard drive. It’s 4.77 MHz processor was impressive back in 1983.

I have no idea what the Hewlett Packard pictured below is about. It appears to be built into the desk. It is clear that the system doesn’t have a mouse and I suspect the interface would amount to allot of green text.

Hewlett Packard – Let’s see Apple beat this all-in-one design.

Surprisingly many of the systems in the museum are still in working order. There was a working Commodore 64.Commodore 64 – 1982 (centre)

The Commodore 64 was one of the best selling personal computers of all time. The keyboard is built-in but it didn’t have a monitor. Instead of a monitor you plugged it into a TV, this made it cheaper and more affordable for the average person to acquire. It’s name is a reference to it’s 64 KB of RAM.

Here is the largest calculator that I have ever seen.

Friden Model 132 Calculator – 1965

As you can see there is a lot to go through.

These days the average phone has more processing power than all the computers in the museum.

I recognise a PDP-8 on the end there, here is another one outside of the cabinet.

PDP-8 – 1965

I also found an (early) Internet simulator.

An Internet without YouTube?

I regret not having the time to look through the museum thoroughly. There is so much to see and I have only photographed a small portion of what I saw. Now that I know this Museum is at Bletchley Park I can plan my time better on a future visit.


Google owes you nothing; get over it.

Pseudonyms on Social Networks

Today it seems that bitching about Google is a fashionable trend. Last year we had the so called ‘Nym Wars‘ where people complained about having to use their real name instead of a pseudonym on Google Plus a new social networking site operated by Google.

Given that Google Plus is a social networking site the idea of being anonymous is an oxymoron because a name does not equal an identity. Names alone mean nothing, it is the information attached to that name that make up the identity. A pseudonym offers no privacy in the context of a social network because if you’re going to maintain a friends list and communicate with people on that list in a forum that allows other to observe your discussion, then you’re are very quickly building a profile of yourself for the world to see. Combine that profile with photographs and information shared by your friends and suddenly any privacy you thought your pseudonym offered is gone; and it’s not coming back.

Keeping your eggs in one basket.

When Google began to suspend users for non-compliance of their real names policy some users found themselves locked out of not only Google Plus but also Gmail, Calendar etc, because Google links accounts across it’s multiple services. Therefore if you get banned from one service, you get banned from all services. I don’t know if Google has a means in place to only terminate individual services linked to an account rather than ban the whole account, but I hope users would learn a lesson from this.

It’s never a good idea to put all or even a significant amount of data into any one company. I know plenty of people who use Google services for everything Documents, Email, Calendar, Address Book, it’s insane how much data people are trusting to Google. Not because Google are bad (they aren’t) but because Google is a single entity. If you find yourself cut-off for any reason then you’re screwed. Especially if you use a Gmail address in which case you lose your email address aswell. (This is why I use my own domains)

You can opt-out.

Google has just announced that it will begin sharing user data amongst the multiple services that it offers.

Google announced on Monday that it would be enacting a new privacy policy that, when customers agree to it, will allow the company to collect and store information across all of its services. Not only that, but Google will share information gathered across those services in order to “maintain, protect and improve” the services, but also to target search results and ads for each user. There is no way to opt out of the information-sharing aside from deleting your entire account and saying goodbye to your Gmail, YouTube videos, and Calendar, among other things.

….

Privacy groups such as Common Sense Media are concerned about users’ inability to opt out of the information collection and sharing. “Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out,” 

ArsTechnica

This is just common sense, Google are going to collaborate their records to make statistical analysis more efficient. This is for data that Google already collects from their own users, people who choose to use their service. The concern is that users “Can’t opt-out” which is not true. Users have to option of not using Google services. I should point out that most of Google’s services are provided for free, and no one is “required” to use them.

Google is a private company offering services to the public; they don’t owe the world. If you don’t like the terms of service them your opt-out is to simply not opt-in by putting all your information into Google. I’m a Google user myself but there is some information I choose not to put into Google, while other information I am happy for them to have.

You have a way to opt-out of Google, by not using their (free) services if you don’t like the terms that come as part of the deal. You will only become Google’s bitch if you let it happen. The same applies to Facebook and Twitter. Take control of your data and realise that Google don’t owe you anything.