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Follow Up With Tom Graves

May 13th, 2013 No comments

Back at the end of April, I contacted Tom Graves (my representative) about how much I disagreed with his CISPA vote. I got a nice long (formulaic) email response from him at the start of May, and have been trying to decide what to do with it until today.

I was first pointed at a Guardian article about how our government has decided to just gather ALL communications by the people in this country. Welcome to the party general media!

I then read through Tom Graves’ response to me more thoroughly and came up with a response I felt needed to be sent (there was an “issue type” selection box that I’m referring to in the first paragraph):

Really this should be under the topic of “Information Security”, but “Telecommunications” will have to do as the issue type. At the end of April, I contacted you regarding your vote in favor of CISPA. While I still disagree with you about what points of that act were concerning to the people you’re supposed to be protecting, you make the following claim in your response to me:

“Like you, I believe each American’s privacy protections should be upheld. As well, I have serious concerns that legislation enabling the federal government to block websites dangerously encroaches upon individuals’ privacy and freedom of speech.”

Should that be the case, you should definitely be fighting against the current data policies that the NSA, FBI, and other security related departments of our government. As highlighted in this Guardian story from earlier this month, the battle to maintain our individual privacy has already been lost: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/04/telephone-calls-recorded-fbi-boston Even though signing petitions and sending emails typically does nothing for we the people, I implore you to help us regain our innate privacy. Just because it exists in a previously unimagined medium by our forefathers doesn’t mean that the government is exempt from upholding the fourth amendment.

— Update —

Just saw a rather related article to the above privacy concerns: http://www.thoughtcrime.org/blog/saudi-surveillance/

Opening Pandora’s Box

February 13th, 2011 2 comments

Yes, after going multiple days planning to update, but no desire to update because of the dismal Super Bowl last weekend (I’m glad I didn’t make a prediction a week ago), I found a story that actually inspired me enough to throw up a post about it. Before doing that though, to quickly touch on the Super Bowl:

  • In December, I said the one team that would be difficult in the NFC for the Steelers to beat would be the Green Bay Packers… and unfortunately I was right.
  • The Steelers were outplayed (sorry family, they were). Regardless if you can move the ball up and down the field, you just can’t make that many mistakes and expect to win a ball game. Oh yeah, and the Packers didn’t really make any mistakes… game over!
  • The commercials were pretty bad this year. Only a few funny ones at all, course those were punctuated by my grandmother exclaiming that they were disgusting for some reason or another.
  • Christina Aguilera should have practiced before the Super Bowl… enough said.
  • They need to just remove the half-time show. Yes, it is a draw for many viewers, but it’s not worth airing in my opinion, especially when the sound crew sucks THAT bad!

Alright, now to what truly interested me enough to post! Many of us use the Pandora Radio service. I knew that they were relatively ubiquitous amongst people who listen to online radio, but didn’t realize that they had a claim to 50% of the internet radio market share! That’s huge! I’m impressed in all honesty, and am really happy with Pandora as a whole. Well, now that Pandora has SUCH a big market share, they figure they might as well go for an IPO. The hopes? Raise around $100 million. Apparently, according to a Slashdot posting (and my sole source here), Pandora has sent their IPO request forms to the SEC, so I’m sure it will make bigger news in the coming weeks.

Invisible Blogger?

December 25th, 2010 No comments

So I essentially I went AFK from my blog for the last month due to academics. Considering that this semester was supposed to be relatively easy and straightforward with just one course that I was classifying ahead of time as difficult, the projects for the semester ended up being extraordinarily harder than anticipated due to time constraints and the usual predicament of all due dates piling up right around the same dates. With that being said, I worked a lot harder this semester than I have durning many previous semesters, and was able to turn out 3 A’s and a B (the B is in the “harder” of the courses of course). This FINALLY puts me over a 3.5 GPA, something I have strived to achieve for the last few semesters since I found out you can graduate with highest honors if you are above a 3.5… something. Of course, with that being said, I have my work cut out for me to hit that cut-off point since I am at exactly a 3.50, but we shall see how the next semester goes.

First, my classes going forward. I only have 4 classes left (I worked it so I could take the minimum load per semester for the last 2 years of college to graduate), and they are:

  • LCC 3403 – Technical Writing: That boring class that all majors at Tech are supposed to take so that we know “how to write technical content,” but I have never heard good things about the course.
  • LCC 3254 – History of Film: Finishes up my Humanities credits and I get to take it with Professor Navarro who I enjoyed taking Intro to Film from this semester.
  • CS 3220 – Processor Design: Required and I am not particularly thrilled about having to take the course since it looks relatively difficult, but the alternative is just as good/bad.
  • CS 4365 – Intro to Enterprise Computing: I theoretically could replace this with an information security course, but I’ve had trouble getting faculty to teach the follow up to my Intro to Infosec. The alternatives are this course or take a grad level course in Infosec. If this course does not interest me after the first day of it, I will switch to the grad Infosec course. At the moment, I am registered for this one.

My personal projects going forward:
I would really like to build a technical analysis tool utilizing Google Finance, Yahoo! Finance, or some other financial data repository. Some of the initial issues I am finding include the lack of access provided to this data (the APIs don’t seem to provide easy access from what I can tell). I will play with this more, but I may have to dumb down much of what I want to build just to pull the data directly from links like this. Unfortunately the data becomes extremely unwieldy in that format, rendering what I want to build (yes, I am not providing large amounts of details, at least not right now) either extremely slow or impossible to build. We shall see.

My other project for the holiday season and until I secure a job is continuing to apply to job positions. Just a few of the companies I wish to apply to over the course of the break alone include:

Ones that I have interviews scheduled with:

Isn’t There Something Wrong Here?

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

As a prelude, I was originally going to write a post about how my Google Interviews went, but I decided that would be bad form considering that I am being considered for a position there, so will sum up the experience as having gone well.

I came across 2 news articles just now that both bother me for slightly different reasons. One of them is about the US’s new financial aid to Pakistan’s military (the size of which shocks me!) and the other is about the data Google’s mapping cars captured.

The main part of the whole “giving aid to Pakistan” that bothered me is not that we are giving it to Pakistan, but that the US is talking about putting aside $2 billion for Pakistan’s MILITARY! I totally understand disaster relief (the flooding in Pakistan), and can even understand giving money for civilian infrastructure in Pakistan, but specifically to their military? When was the last time we publicly funded another country’s military with US money that wasn’t South Korea or Israel? Yes, yes, we must bolster their military so that they can help us fight terrorist organizations like the Taliban in the Middle East, but doesn’t $2 billion just sound like a bit much? We apparently gave them $7.5 billion over the last 5 years. WOW! Hey government, I think I found a way to balance your books a bit to reduce debt, STOP GIVING ALL OF IT TO OTHER COUNTRIES!!!

Ok, let’s assume you have sold me on Pakistan being our greatest ally in that area of the world with their proximity to Afghanistan and such (and cooperation with the US for tracking the Taliban and such down). Wait, they helped? Aren’t there still numerous reports of terrorists being TRAINED in parts of Pakistan? So we are going to help their military beef up so that they can take on these terrorist training camps and knock them out… like that’s going to be the main area that they will put this military sanctioned money…

As for the Google story. I’m sorry, if you don’t at least secure your wireless network, that’s like leaving your front door to your house open with a sign that says “Not here right now.” Driving by and seeing wireless traffic and data that is unsecured is not invasion of privacy. It is not taking the necessary precautions to secure your own privacy. Let me use an example that is easier to relate. If you put a lot of personal information on Twitter or Facebook, and then don’t lock down the privacy settings, and then don’t EXPECT spammers and scammers to use that private data, you are naive for lack of a kinder word.

With that being said, it is a bit sketchy that Google went and recorded the data that was seen while driving around in their Google mapping cars. I mean, they didn’t HAVE to collect the data, could have just seen it and moved on with their lives. But the VOLUME that Google was able to see and record says a lot about how people treat their personal, supposedly private, networks. Twitter calls the volume of information that they give access to a “fire hose” of data. I don’t really see unsecured wireless networks as anything else really. Talk about easy pickings! I just wish people weren’t pegging this problem on Google and were instead blaming the people truly responsible, the Joe Schmo who doesn’t know how to setup their private network to be actually private (even though it requires as much effort as logging into your router and clicking the enable “WPA” or “WEP” encryption button and logging the passphrase on your computer and maybe a sticky note if you need it). This isn’t rocket science people!!!

Things I’ve Meant to Post About

September 12th, 2010 No comments

So there are a bunch of different things that I’ve intended to blog about for some time now, but never got around to them. As a result, most of it is either old news, or just not as important to me. Fortunately for me, but likely unfortunately for everyone else, is the fact that I sent each of these to myself so that I wouldn’t forget them (and then promptly forgot to post about them).

The first of importance is a guide that LifeHacker posted a while back about how to use GoogleCL (Google Command Line). Many of us use Google’s services these days. Google took that a step further and released their GoogleCL product for 2 reasons:

  1. To allow those computer nerds out there to geek out about being able to use Gmail and the like in their command line.
  2. To allow users to do some things with Google products that aren’t traditionally allowed through the front end like backing up your contacts from Gmail.

The second one is definitely the most important, because now you can use the command line to make it auto-backup your contacts! There are other handy things that you can do with GoogleCL, but allowing for auto-backups I think is the most important. You can already export your contacts as a CSV (they added this feature, I believe, around when they separated out the Mail and Contacts functionality in Gmail), but you can’t setup automatic backups because Google likes the idea that they don’t ever lose data. The part they are forgetting is that while they may not lose it, people have the potential of accidentally deleting it! Anyways, here is the article on LifeHacker about it: 5 Handy Google Command Line Tricks.

I have also been meaning to post about the Google set-top box. If I had to guess, when they announce it officially this fall, it will be running some form of ChromeOS. I am of course not 100% sure, but it is the only thing that makes sense. It also won’t have to deal with the “file system” issue that the computers running ChromeOS will have to handle for things like attachments to emails. Regardless, I just rewatched the video on google.com/tv and they have definitely updated it since I last saw the video! Anyway, it looks like it is going to be a serious contender to Apple TV, other standard DVR boxes, and pretty much everyone else in the field, simply because it is going to meld the web with DVR and satellite content.

That was it for things on other websites that I wanted to post about. I’ll focus on something much more theoretical next.

… looks like this ended up being my Google post …

[Image from techdigest.tv]

WordPress Upgrade Issue

July 1st, 2010 No comments

So recently, when BurgerBlog went through the automatic update from WordPress 2.9.x to 3.0, it ran into a slight hiccup that corrupted ALL of the posts that were on there. The issue seemed to be with the format of the single and double quotes throughout all the posts. They were all, without fail, replaced with ‘?’s. Now, what baffles me is how the system saved the wrong double and single quote symbols in the first place.

The quotes were the ones that are seen in word processors, like Microsoft Word, that are directional. So if I “quoted” something, the first quote would be different from the second quote.

Regardless, the reason that the system originally saved them, but no longer saved them is what truly confused me. As a result, I went through the following procedure:

NOTE: SQL knowledge and access to the phpMyAdmin page is required.

  1. Accessed the phpMyAdmin page, found on the control panel for your site. No, not the WordPress control panel, the one that’s on the back-end of the site itself (gives you access to your site’s stats, FTP accounts, email accounts, etc.).
  2. Browsed to the WordPress database and used the following SQL statement to find all posts that now had ‘?’s in them:
  3. To get all the posts with ‘?’s in them and their IDs.
    SELECT ID, post_title FROM wp_blogname_posts WHERE post_content LIKE ‘%?%’

    To get the distinct post titles that contain ‘?’s in them.
    SELECT DISTINCT post_title FROM wp_blogname_posts WHERE post_content LIKE ‘%?%’

  4. From there, I was able to garner the proper ID of the post title (most easily found by finding the present blog post with that title and selecting edit, then looking in the URL bar for the ID), and use SQL back-ups where possible to garner the most recent version with the quotes and single-quotes in them still.
  5. Did a find and replace on my back-ups for all of the incorrect double and single quotes.
  6. Manually pasted in the corrected post content directly into the database to expedite the process (could have done it manually with each edit page, but that requires waiting for all the WordPress functions and AJAX to load).

It took a couple hours to go through the 40 posts on BurgerBlog that were messed up, and that’s not including the extra time required to fix the ones I didn’t have back-ups for (I had been slacking with my consistent back-ups). Now, it is almost entirely fixed, with the exception being the couple of ‘?’s that were missed in the ones that were done manually (those should be fixed by end of 7/2 anyways).

Assignment Design Fail

March 16th, 2010 2 comments

The weekend was definitely a busy one. Between having/attending a party at a friends’ place and then spending the rest of the weekend doing homework (had an assignment for my Algorithms class and a group paper for my Ethics class to finish), it was a very busy, but productive weekend. I got all the work done (eventually), and had a great time Friday night! I’d rant a bit about my Ethics assignments not being clear enough, but I don’t think that’s really necessary when I have better fodder to write about in the form of my Marketing online homework submissions.

So the system is called Management by the Numbers and the site/product is completely new. At the beginning of the semester, they provided us with accounts according to the school we are in and the number we were on the roster (I assume that’s how the number was generated at least). So, the format would be gtxxx, and they initially gave EVERYONE in these classes the EXACT SAME PASSWORD! I noticed this immediately in the email that they sent out to us regarding what our login credentials were. As someone who wants to professionally doing information security for a living post undergrad, I just cringed when I saw this. To make matters worse, I did the first assignment on the WRONG username because ALL the passwords were the same. Of course, I didn’t realize that was the issue when I saw a 0 for the grade, but only after contacting the professor and TA about the issue did it become apparent “Aaron, your username is gtxxx.” “OH MY GOODNESS, I did the homework on the wrong username, I did it on gtxxy.”

After further discussion, I discovered that the company was “working on” a password change “feature,” which I consider standard in ANY login system. I almost asked for a contract to write the code to do it in PHP out of frustration, but thankfully I didn’t because I have had a bunch on my plate this semester. Overall, it was really disappointing. The funny part, that’s not even what I wanted to show with this blog post.

When I was doing the assignment that was originally due tomorrow, I found a few interesting bugs in it (causing the due date change). The first one had to do with an algorithm that was used to obtain the answer for a problem. It was supposed to be:

(($23.90 – 10) / (.71 * $23.90 – 10)) – 1 = 0.99

Instead of:

(($23.90 – 10) / (.75 * $23.90 – 10)) – 1 = 0.75

You see, the .71 in the correct answer was because it was supposed to have a 29% decrease (in this problem, since that number is dynamic) in price for the comparison, but the algorithm had been setup for a static 25% decrease in price instead. This caused correct answers to be completely wrong.

The more interesting bug, pictured to the right, had to do with precision. They were taking the number out to multiple decimal places, and requiring precision according to that, but the dollar amounts were automatically rounding as we expect cents to do. The end result was that a correct answer was STILL wrong. Of course, this was extremely frustrating for me at first, until I thought to myself “I wonder if it will accept the decimal written ALL the way out (I think I did 6 places just to be over accurate). It worked of course, since the issue had to do with their accuracy, but displaying it as a whole cent was extremely confusing. Regardless, I have finished the assignment and the due date has been pushed back to this Thursday now.

DNS Changes

March 12th, 2010 No comments

So, I’ve switched hosting over at this point to windfirehosting.com, a hosting reseller account that some of my friends and I setup a while back. My hosting account was going to expire on the 14th of the month and I felt like it was time to move it over. So the last 10 days or so have been spent waiting for DNS registries to reflect the changes I have made to them, getting the DBs moved over, and uploading all the files. I ran into a few interesting snags while doing the migration, but also learned quite a bit in the process of doing it.

First, I used to be hosted at Startlogic. They did a more than adequate job of hosting my sites over the last 6 years along with keeping their 99.whatever% uptime. There was only one snag that I was aware of that caused a loss of access to my sites, though that one lasted about 24 hours. Regardless, they did a good job of hosting me, but their prices increased in one of the previous 2 payment cycles to $6 per month from $5 per month. Not a huge price hike, but noticeable, especially when my friends and I have already setup this reseller hosting account for a cost of $5 per month. The solution, to me, was pretty obvious: just move my sites over to it.

There was one downside to this, Startlogic had all the domain names registered through them. This meant that I had NO idea what was involved in this process or how to modify it. So, after calling Startlogic’s support, I found out that I could downgrade my account instead of moving registrars too so that I could just manage my domains through them, and that I just had to change the domains to point to the new name servers. Of course, that’s skipping about 20 steps in the process of getting there, both with their tech support and with DB issues, cpanel access issues, and FTP access failures, but you don’t want or need the full story there. Once I knew how to change the name server information, I was all set… minus the fact that it takes 24-48 hours for registries to reflect the changes. So literally 6 or so times a day, I would ping the domain names to see if they were pointing to the correct IP yet. Took a while, but they finally were pointing to the right place, then I was able to solve the DB issues, then things became much smoother for the second domain (I chose to move one domain at a time so that at least mostperfect.net would be up and running while I made changes to rachelburger.com).

So, assuming that all goes according to plan and Startlogic doesn’t just decide to close my domains (which are renewed), or change where they are pointing, this should be the new home of the websites that I run (for personal use, not including the other websites that I manage). Overall, it wasn’t too painless, but I didn’t want to post to a database that was just going to be migrated shortly thereafter, so I postponed posts till now. I should have content for the next few posts, so till next time.

This Semester’s Classes

January 15th, 2010 No comments

So, I said in a previous post that I was going to be reviewing Evernote as a note taking a productivity tool this semester. Unfortunately that is much harder now that I have attended my first few classes. 2 of my classes discourage or just flat out forbid the use of laptops during class (the one that doesn’t forbid it only allows them on certain days that we are doing in class activities). For the third class, I’m not going to use a laptop anyways because that is algorithms and you just can’t easily type out those symbols most of the time required by the random proofs and equations that we will be using in that class. The remaining course is Ethics, so I will be using my laptop in that class, and hence will still be able to review the program, just not on the same scale as I would have liked.

The two classes that I cannot use my laptop in is Accounting 1 and Marketing. Overall, the classes seem like they will go well this semester, with the very structured accounting course making it much easier to deal with how much I don’t like the teaching antics of the professor, and marketing seems like it will be nice since the teacher does it very much on a discussion basis (I like). Similarly, Ethics will also be nice because it will focus on us working in small groups in class and then discussing our findings afterward. Algorithms is going to be tough, but as long as I keep up with the assignments and the reading of the textbook before class, I’ll be good.

This weekend is going to be a long weekend, which should be very nice and mean I’ll actually be productive (maybe). I have a new book that I want to read, so it may not be AS productive as I would like. Also, my friend is working on putting together a new project to be discussed further once we have the ball rolling with it. First steps first, we have to really hammer out the goals of the new site and such. Look for further posts about that in the future.

What’s Been Missed

January 8th, 2010 No comments

First off, to tie up some loose ends from the fall semester that I blogged about briefly in that “ages ago” post from August. I did not manage to get the required GPA needed for achieving my 3.5 overall GPA, but I believe I can manage it this year much more easily. I really should have gotten it, but I ended with a 3.4 for the fall semester, which resulted in a 3.43 overall. Not too shabby regardless, but not what I had hoped for. If only I had… well it doesn’t really matter what I could and should have done, the semester is over and I have now dealt with some of the best and worst professors of my entire stay at GT thus far (yes, in a single semester…).

As many of my readers know (do I have many readers? I have no idea…) I am a Jewish student and have been planning, with my girlfriend, on going to Israel this winter break on what is called Taglit Birthright (for more information, see her posts at abroadburger.wordpress.com about the trip and why we ended up missing it in its full detail). The short version of the story is that we really wanted to go and had planned our entire vacation around it. My girlfriend’s passport ended up not getting picked up from the Chinese Embassy (where it was getting validated for her trip to China during the spring semester) and hence we were unable to take the trip. The rest of the vacation has been GREAT though! Since we were unable to spend the holiday in Israel, we have done a whole lot of relaxing at her parent’s house and that has been the sum of the vacation. I did end up beating Fable: The Lost Chapters while here, so I will most likely write a review of that game at a later point.

Last point that I highlighted in my previous post: I have been checking out a note-taking suite called Evernote. It seems to be a very cool suite and I have noticed a few things about it. Firstly, it’s free with a premium account option (that I shouldn’t need for the spring semester). Secondly, it comes with both Windows and Mac native apps along with auto-syncing with the web version of the interface. Essentially they are notes that can be accessed from anywhere if I so desire, along with sharing and some other nifty features. My planned usage is going to be:

  • Create a new notebook per subject
  • Create a new entry per lecture that is dated
  • Take pictures of any notes that are handwritten and attach those using the iSight on my laptop
  • There is also tagging, but I am not sure how well I’ll be able to utilize that

Like I said before, a review will come later, but until then, I advise others to check it out for general tasks, note-taking, and anything else you can think of to use it for. There is a review of it on Lifehacker already.