Don’t be evil (unless you can make money!)

So we all know Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil.” It’s not the most inspired thing in the world; since evil is a rather strong term and it leaves a lot of wiggle room compared to something like “Always be good.”

Now recently, Google made a deal with the Chinese government. Basically, the Chinese government has an internet firewall which tries to stop it’s citizens from accessing certain kinds of information on the internet. Here in America, we have a word for this: censorship. In the past, the Chinese government would block certain content that Google helped Chinese citizens access, but now Google has agreed to censor itself based on the Chinese government’s requirements. Now of course, Google being a search engine (and a very good one at that) has a pretty clear goal: make information available to people. Obviously censorship and the whole concept of a search engine are in conflict with each other.

So what does this mean? Well if a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a good example:

Do a search for “tiananmen square” pictures in the US version of Google: http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen+square

verses the Chinese version of Google:

Just a wee-bit different, huh? Now here’s the billion dollar question: Would Google do this sorta thing to get on the good graces of the Chinese government if China didn’t represent such an important market for Google’s services? If this was Somalia we were talking about, do you think Google would censor pictures of things the Somalian government thought cast a bad light on it? I seriously doubt it.


First rule of Congress: you must not talk about VEIL

I’m trying to understand what is so important to secure that the US Congress is not only considering mandating certain security methods, but that those methods be a secret from the general public. Nuclear weapon control systems? New kind of stealth aircraft? Some kind of spy satellite? Maybe some new way of tracking down terrorists?

Turns out it’s none of those things. Instead, this bill has to do with limiting what Americans can do with TV shows. You know, like taping them on a VCR/TiVo or perhaps fast-forwarding thru commercials.

Basically, Congress is looking to force companies which decode digital TV signals to impliment DRM technology called VEIL. But you and I can’t read the specification about VEIL or know what it does… well not without signing a legal agreement promising not to discuss or disclose anything about the technology and forking over $10,000 in cash. Even then, you only get the information on how to decode VEIL data, not the other way around.

The end result is we have no idea what this technology actually does, how reliable it is, how much it will increase the cost of TV’s that consumers buy or even if this technology is extensible enough to adapt to new media or requirements. Basically, it’s a government mandated way of one company of generating millions if not billions of revenue since every TV manufacturer who would like to sell to Americans would have to license this technology from them.

I’d ask what ever happened to Congress looking out for consumers instead of business interests, but frankly, that hasn’t been true for years. Anways, to read more, check out Ed Felten’s blog.


RAID & Backups

So every IT person worth a penny knows that RAID isn’t a replacement for backups and that backups are worthless if you don’t test them.

So why do so many of us find ourselves “too busy” to bother testing backups? So today I almost found myself burned. After noticing that a drive failure in a RAID10 array had taken out my server, I started thinking about that that nightly backup. Luckily for me, only one drive was down and the array was able to come backup (albiet in a downgraded state). So I immediately kicked off a manual backup.

Now, the output of the backups are always emailed to me and I had noticed for quite some time, that it oddly reported skipping files in /var twice. I would occasionally try to figure out why star was skipping files in /var when it was supposed to be backing up /home, but I never tried too hard to figure it out.

So as my manual backup was running, I figured I’d once and for all figure out this oddity. Imagine my shock when I realized the obvious… I wasn’t backing up /home, but rather /var twice.  “Oops.” Oh well… better to have figured it out now then when I was trying to restore some critical file in /home.


Wow, spammy

So lately, I’ve been really annoyed with the amount of spam I get. After various custom filters + SpamAssassin, I still get around 100 spams/day (of which about 20% finds it’s way into my inbox and the remaining 80% into my spambox which I have to check for false positives). Pretty painful.

So yesterday I splitted things up to figure out where my spam is coming from (or rather to). I’ve figured out that roughly 2/3rds of my spam comes from my two pobox.com accounts. About 3/12ths comes via my speakeasy.net address (which I’ve never used in my life, which is pretty odd) and the final 1/12th is via my synfin.net address. Checking out the anti-spam settings on my pobox.com account shows that they have *blocked* over 7700 spams in the last month. HOLY CRAP!

At that point, it was painfully obvious that after 10 years, I need to retire my pobox.com addresses. Just way too much spam is coming through and theres just no way to block it all even with agressive filters. So I’ve decided to migrate all my mailing lists to my gmail account (synfinatic) and retire my pobox.com address in favor of synfin.net (aturner or aaron… haven’t really decided yet. aturner gets under 10 spams/day and aaron is spam-free, but people can’t seem to spell synfin or aaron which seems like a bad combination).

Gmail seems to have pretty decent spam filtering, since most days I don’t get any spam in my inbox. But frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of webmail systems, and gmail isn’t much better then others IMHO. Oh well, either way, it’s Taps for aturner@pobox.com.


Don’t hit F5

Because apparently this prosecutor in Canton, OH thinks hitting F5 on your keyboard to reload a web page repeatedly is a *felony*. You know, the same sorta thing like rape and murder.

Ok, so maybe conspiring with your friends on the internet to “crash the webserver” of your high school by overloading it with requests is something we shouldn’t encourage in our youth. But come on, you can’t tell me we all haven’t done worse things in high school. You’d think that in a world where kids are bringing guns to schools, gangs are rampant and children are experimenting with alcolhol, drugs and sex at younger and younger ages school administrators and law enforcement would have better things to do then making an example of an 18yr old with a bad sense of humor. But I guess Canton, OH is such a utopia that even the slightest mistake requires a heavy hand.



Drugs are good.

Well finally went to the doctor yesterday. First time in something like 5 or 6 years I think. Got me some new fangled antibiotics which you only take once/day for 5 days and some Flonase for my allergies. Should be interesting to see if the Flonase works better then the Claritin. Feeling better already. Yay drugs!

Other then that, back to work today. Working on the hardware and hacking more perl. Looks like all the annoying bugs are done in some automation I’m working on, but I’m not really happy with how some of the IPC is being handled. I really should be using a named pipe instead of temp files, but well it works. Overall though, looks like things are going well and it’s going to be another great year at Mu.

One last thing… I’m really getting sick of all the spam I’m getting.  SpamAssassin doesn’t seem to be keeping up well at all.  Looks like it’s about time to retire my @pobox.com account and finally make the move to @synfin.net.