Not a good idea

In fact, the part I bolded seems like an astonishingly bad idea:

“Sullivan spoke with multiple consumers who’d seen their Starbucks card balances emptied and then topped up again.

Those customers had all chosen to tie their debit accounts to their Starbucks cards and mobile phones.”

It seems like if someone is going to link his Starbucks card, checking account, and mobile phone, he might as well just put them all in a bag and hang it on a hook just outside his back door.

There’s foil in my wallet

But I’m not crazy. The foil is only there to block the scanners. The bank sent out the new credit card a while ago, and it has a chip in it. After reading about the potential risks, it seemed like some shielding wouldn’t hurt anything. But how to know if the shielding worked?

At one work site, I get access to the facility by putting my id card against a scanner. This works even if I just hold my wallet up to the scanner. This seems like a reasonable basis for testing. The first thing I put in my wallet was a piece of what seemed to be metalized paper from a coffee package. Holding up my wallet still activated the door, so a coffee bag probably will not block the scanners the men in black would carry if there were men in black following me.

Next time I went out to that site, I folded up four layers of regular aluminum foil and put that in my wallet. The scanner didn’t work. A week or so later I tried it again, and this time scanner did read my card through the foil. Thinking it might be because the foil had compressed, I opened up the foil and interleaved a piece of paper. My knowledge of electricity and magnetism is close to the cargo-cult level, you see. Anyway, this seemed to work, but I’ll test it again from time to time.

If I come across some sheet copper I’ll try that too. A couple of business-card size pieces of copper with the Lord’s Prayer engraved on it would probably excite less interest than a packet of aluminum foil.

What Lenovo did

“We’ve trained ourselves to think we’re safe if we see that little lock in our browser window, but what Lenovo did was load software that does an end-run around your web browser, making it impossible to tell if someone else had subverted HTTPS. Very few people check that, but that doesn’t make it right to take the option away. As long as Superfish is running, it’s impossible to tell if anyone has gotten between Superfish and your bank, or Amazon. So someone could empty your bank account while serving up a web page that shows you still have money, or hijack your Amazon purchase, running off with your money while Amazon never gets your order and you never get your product, and it will be next to impossible for you to even know what happened.” — Lenovo’s preinstalled Superfish spyware: A post-mortem, by David L. Farquhar

I’d rather build my own (difficult if you want a laptop), and install the OS myself, but sometimes you need something right now — I’m typing this on an off-the-shelf Dell, and there’s certainly software on it that’s useless and a nuisance. There’s nothing malign – as far as I know.

Tangentially, this Chromebox sounds interesting.

Terrorism and law enforcement

They weren’t running away.

“It turns out that the media have misunderstood what was going on since the initial attack by the Kouachi brothers and their accomplice on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

“The elusive Kouachis have not been fleeing from the police, in the manner of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. They were fighting their way around Paris to the scene of their next attack — and apparently being assisted by others in a terrorist cell.”

It’s not a job for the police, because it’s not law enforcement. We should not be militarizing the police and curtailing civil liberties. That’s fighting the enemy with his own weapons. We should fight the enemy with our weapons.

“In the last century, we have been preparing ourselves to accept sharia, by insisting on centrally supervised uniformity of thought and vision about all public and moral issues. We have forgotten the strength that comes with decentralization, true tolerance, and the moral dignity of the individual.”

“We must cease using our governments to harass people into conformity on disputable matters.”

There are a few other points, and J.E. Dyer’s Paris attack: The West’s time for choosing is well worth reading. The only problem I can see with the authors recommendations is we would need a population of grown-up citizens to implement them.

Oh! the Humanity

NSA Spied on Prominent Muslim Americans“!

Well yeah, but then the NSA also spied on obscure Baptist Americans, famous Journalist Americans, infamous Nigerian witchdoctors, reclusive Italo-German lexicographers, the College of Cardinals, and people who read BoingBoing. But hey, if spying on Muslims is what it takes to get people’s attention, then preach it.

Windows 8.1

Initial impressions

For a while Alt-F4 was getting a real workout; I couldn’t find any other way to quit some programs. One of the updates seems to have fixed this, and most everything again has an X at the top right. There’s no Start menu, but I never used it much. The menu that comes up from WindowsKey-X is good enough. Most of the keyboard shortcuts still work. WindowsKey toggles back and forth between the desktop and that useless Start screen. Speaking of useless, Bing weather is that.

Powershell is good.

The computer is a generic Dell, bought off the shelf. So far I haven’t been able to get it to boot from anything but the hard drive, even though other options are there. They really don’t want you booting anything but Windows. It looks like it can be done if I turn off SecureBoot, but there are dire warnings. I want to read a bit more. Windows 8 Hacks by Preston Gralla has been helpful, though nothing there about SecureBoot; not that there needs to be, since that isn’t unique to Windows 8.

The whole environment does feel very intrusive and pushy. Give us your phone number; buy this; link that with your email account; is that your cellphone I’m detecting? You’ll want to link that to your email, right?

They’ve managed to screw up solitaire, which is now an over-animated mess that wants me to buy an X-box and subscribe to something.

But overall, it’s mostly harmless. Read a less favorable impression here. I understand if you pay more you can have Windows 7.

UPDATE: An update added window controls to “apps” like solitaire, mail, and the Kindle reader so they can be closed with the mouse by clicking on the X in the upper right corner of the window. But it turns out that clicking the X makes it disappear, but it’s still running according to the task manager. Alt-f4 does kill it. I don’t care for this. The computer belongs to me, not to Microsoft, or some consortium of corporate partners. If close a program, I want it to stop running, not to go hide behind a curtain. So, back to Alt-f4.