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Election Day in Virginia, November 3rd, 2015

Quick reminder to all those in Virginia; it is election day tomorrow – state and local offices will be holding elections in every district in the state. Don’t forget to go vote.

Where do I vote? Virginia State Board of Elections Voting Places

What is on my ballot? Virginia State Board of Elections Ballot

XcodeGhost infected Applications; might include Mercury

First really serious hack to impact iOS devices that are not jail-broken manages to inject spyware into several apps that were actually in the Apple App store. There are several good articles covering XcodeGhost and the hacked apps that may have been developed with XcodeGhost. One of the better written ones is on ArsTechnica, of course…

Apple Scrambles After 40 Malicious XcodeGhost Apps Haunt App Store

This impacts China more than most, as most of the apps are Chinese language apps targeting people in China; but there are a few reputedly infected apps that are in global use, including the Mercury web browser!

That hits home, as I have been using Mercury on iOS (iPad and iPhone) for a long time as an alternative to Safari (I use several browsers with different settings and permissions to have different privacy modes). The news that Mercury might be spying on me is more than a little frightening.

The good news, I don’t trust any iOS browser to do anything – I never save passwords, rarely allow them to use location, etc.. so the amount of information gathered is limited to the use of the browser itself.

Also – I am using Mercury 9.1.0; and my firewall is not seeing any traffic to 92.242.140.21 (the IP address of init.icloud-analysis.com where the reports are allegedly going); so I am hopeful that that version of Mercury is not infected (but there is no guarantee). I am pretty sure the newer versions released after May 31st, 2015 are infected (that is when Mercury was briefly unavailable in the App Store and only resumed under a different publisher than original versions).

Timeline of Mercury so far (some google searching):
2009/08/24 iLegendSoft registered their website
2009/12/23 Mercury is already released and reviews are beginning to appear
2012/07/27 mercury-browser is out and website launched
2014/12/21 Mercury 8.9.4 released, still with plenty of info – probably a good version
2015/04/29 Mercury 9.0.7 released
2015/05/06 Mercury 9.0.10 released
2015/05/?? Mercury 9.1.0 released
2015/05/31 Mercury disappears from app store
2015/07/06 Mercury 9.2.1 announced on Facebook – likely hacked – new publisher “Lucy Ding” instead of iLegendSoft
2015/09/18 XcodeGhost hack unveiled – Mercury on the list of infected apps according to some news outlets

Until we know more, do NOT install Mercury, and it is probably best to figure out what private information you have entered into Mercury and clear that if you are not certain it is safe (change passwords, and the like).

It is a testimony to how good the walled garden of the app store is, that this is really the first serious hack of un-broken iPhones and iPads since their debut several years ago. That is amazing.

4th generation AppleTV looks very impressive

In case you missed the Apple Keynote last Wednesday, September 9th, 2015, there was a segment of it I would like to call attention to; the segment covering the upcoming 4th generation AppleTV (available in late October 2015). This interface is what TV needs to be!

AppleTV section starts about 52 minutes into the overall keynote and runs to the 83 minute mark.
Apple Keynote, September 2015

Tim Cook introduces the new AppleTV running tvOS, and states that the future of television is Apps , and backs that up by pointing out that we already spend more time on tablets, smart phones, and laptops than we do on televisions.

This new AppleTV uses an app store like the iPhone or iPad, and the Apps allow for far more immersive experiences than simply watching linear video streams. The Major League Baseball app demo is particularly amazing at demonstrating the abilities to do multiple things at once all while watching your game. Games, shopping, vacation planning as a family, real estate research on the big screen are just the beginnings of what is possible; and I think this is the way television is heading.

If you use “home sharing” do NOT upgrade to iOS 8.4

So, my own fault for not reading the fine print, but one of my favorite features of iOS vanishes with iOS 8.4 – the “home sharing” of music on a single WiFi network. Specifically, iOS 8.4 clients can no longer connect to a shared music library on the local network for Music playback (Video playback still works fine).

Engadget claims that Eddie Cue of Apple tweets that home sharing will be back in iOS 9 (later this Fall), hopefully that is accurate, as many of us use home sharing to play each other’s music in one household.

http://www.engadget.com/2015/07/07/apple-music-home-sharing-ios-9/

https://manuals.info.apple.com/MANUALS/1000/MA1596/en_US/ipod_touch_user_guide.pdf (search the PDF for how to turn on home sharing of videos in iOS 8.4)

Is racism the American Way? Does it have to be?

Wow, the article/essay linked below is powerfully and well written. For what it’s worth, I have always hated “Gone With the Wind” myself, and “Braveheart” too.

Yes, you’re a racist… and a traitor. – an essay on Medium.com by John E. Price

Here is another one, also beautifully written, and with the keys to the salvation of our nation: the author’s principal who took the time to educate the author on the impact of his own insensitivity saved him from a lifetime of ignorance! May we all step up and take the time to learn and to have compassion and sensitivity to our fellow human beings and Americans.

Heritage, Hate and and the Juvenilization of Free Speech – an message of hope from Stephen Ingram

I think it is absolutely critical that we all take away from that the simple fact that patiently and directly addressing racism with thoughtful questions can help those ignorant of the impact of their actions to make a change in their life and the lives of others if they want to. It does not address the willfully ignorant, but how do we know who is willing to change and does not realize it unless we take the time to try? I know this takes enormous courage, and perhaps it was easier for a school principal in a position of authority than it will be for most of us, but I think more of us should try.

I think we can even generalize a call to action; we should all be calling out bad behavior promptly, and using social pressure to induce members of society to have a little respect and compassion for others.

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Vegetable Garden, 2015

I should have done this every year I’ve had a garden, log the sewing of seeds and plantings and photograph the progress with notes so that in following years I learn from mistakes.

I began this year’s garden a little late due to cold weather and outside events that prevented an early start; but I did start with wonderfully prepared garden beds that had been deliberately left fallow through 2014 except for Oregano that just will not stop prospering and a Fig Bush left over from a Fig Tree that was badly damaged in a snow storm years ago.

On April 2nd, 2015 I sewed from seeds, four small areas: mesclun mixed lettuces, cilantro, and multi-colored carrots.

first area in first bed prepared

started planting carrots, mesclun mix, and cilantro from seeds

April 5th: sewed from seeds a row of swiss chard and weeded some more of the first garden bed.

Late April: noticed swiss chard, mesclun lettuces and cilantro coming up; no sign of carrots.

On May 9th: took this photo of the baby lettuces (mesclun mix) that had come up so beautifully and a photo of the young swiss chard…

Lettuces, Greens

Mesclun Mix coming up nicely


Young Swiss Chard

Young Swiss Chard

May 19th: planted 4 varieties tomato plants, 3 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, 2 Indian corn, 5 basils (one purple), and thai pepper plant.

May 20th: planted two varieties of corn seeds, basil seeds, more mesclun and lettuce seeds, more swiss chard seeds, more cilantro seeds; we gave up on the carrots which never surfaced.

May 24th: planted watermelon seeds, cantaloupe seeds, sugar snap pea seeds, green bean seeds, acorn squash seeds, cucumber seeds, thai chili pepper seeds, and garlic bulbs. Also thinned out Fig Bush, mowed, watered garden, accidentally killed thai chili pepper.

May 25th: planted baby rosemary

May 26th: planted four more tomato plants from Rick and Carla’s seeds (small plants), noticed corn coming up.

May 29th: planted chocolate mint in the mint bed behind the house (not in the garden proper).

May 30th: planted beet seeds, pinched lower tomatoe branches, noticed cucumbers, peas, watermelons, musk melons, basil, and beans coming up. Planted replacement Thai chili pepper plant.

Baby Sweet Corn

Baby Sweet Corn


Baby Cucumber

Baby Cucumber

Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Yellow Squash in Back

Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Yellow Squash in Back


Baby Canteloupe (Musk Melon)

Baby Canteloupe (Musk Melon)

Watermelon

Watermelon


Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Basil and Purple Basil

Basil and Purple Basil


Rosemary and lots of Oregano

Rosemary and lots of Oregano

Baby Green Beans

Baby Green Beans


Baby Sugar Snap Peas

Baby Sugar Snap Peas

Baby Basil Sprouts

Baby Basil Sprouts


Yellow Squash, Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Mesclun Mix

Yellow Squash, Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Mesclun Mix

May 31st: Yay! The acorn squash seeds are sprouting!

Acorn Squash Sprout

Acorn Squash Sprout

June 3rd: heavy rain, 1-2 inches over whole day; the beet seeds sprouting already.

June 6th: Some photos…

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

New Lettuce/Mesclun Mix Sprouts

New Lettuce/Mesclun Mix Sprouts

June 7th: Plant more green bean seeds since so few sprouted. Add second string for peas and beans to climb on.

June 9th: Took some photos to document the progress…

Corn, Snap Peas, Cucumbers, Squash, Chard

Corn, Snap Peas, Cucumbers, Squash, Chard

Tomatoes, Zuchinni, Melons

Tomatoes, Zuchinni, Melons

Happy Basil

Happy Basil

June 13th: Garlic is visible now.

Garlic plant

Garlic plant

June 14th: Planted kale seeds. Zuchinni and Squash are flowering.

Flowering Zuchinni

Flowering Zuchinni

June 18th: Finished the mailbox bed.

Mailbox Bed

Artemesia, Dahlia, Pentas, Celosia, Dusty Miller, Cardinal Flower, Oreganum

June 20th: Kale sprouts are visible. Big storms and deer get through fence, the vermin chomped on some tomatoes and marigolds.

Flowering Zuchinni

Flowering Zuchinni


Snap Peas

Snap Peas need a little something to cling to


Kale sprouts

Itty-bitty kale sprout next to Mesclun Mix

June 21st: Repaired fence, braced corn and tomato plants back up from storm.

Tall Corn

Corn is more than knee high well before the fourth of July. Human in photo for scale.

June 27th: We have zucchini!

Zucchini

Zucchini and flowers

June 29th: We have yellow squash and the Thai chili seeds have sprouted!

Yellow Squash

Yellow Squash


Thai Chili Sprouts

Thai Chili Sprouts

July 2nd: Harvested Zucchini and Yellow Squash, and enjoying a steady stream of mesclun mixed lettuces, chard, oregano, rosemary, and basil.

Zucchini and Squash Harvest

Zucchini and Squash Harvest

July 14th: Harvested more Zucchini, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary. Snap Peas are visible on the vines, as are green beans. We have corn cobs, and cucumbers, and a Thai chili pepper! The second attempt at carrots is more successful.

Green Beans

Green Beans

Carrot Sprouts

Carrot Sprouts

Thai Chili Pepper

Thai Chili Pepper


Tomatoes

Tomatoes

First Cucumber

First Cucumber

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas


Ears of Indian Corn

Ears of Indian Corn

July 16th: harvested first cucumbers, green beans, and sugar snap peas! There really is nothing like a fresh snap pea, yum! Also harvested more zucchini, mesclun lettuces, basil, oregano, thyme. Something ate my kale sprouts and beet sprouts again, damn.

HBO Now finally launches!

I have been wishing to subscribe to HBO directly for years, and living without HBO entirely or visiting friends to see the excellent shows without paying for a hugely overpriced bundle of crap from a cable company… and finally HBO Now is available. It launched in Apple’s iTunes App stores earlier today (April 7th, 2015) and will allow HBO content in AppleTV, iPad, and iPhone (possibly iPod Touch as well). Although my AppleTVs are older, I am hoping I can airplay the content or update them to play the new service. Everyone expects HBO Now to become available on Roku in about 3 months, and other devices will follow after that. This is a huge win for “cord-cutters” who want HBO’s excellent programming and don’t want to wait until the shows come out on DVD a few years after they first show.

I wish it was a little cheaper (the stand alone service will be $14.99/month) and you have to already have internet access and a device (iPad, iPhone, AppleTV – eventually Roku, etc) – but this is exactly what I have been asking HBO for, so time to pony up and subscribe.

To get HBO Now for yourself, open up iTunes on any Mac or Windows computer, and go to the App Store, search for “HBO Now” and download the app. On your IOS device, install and start the “HBO Now” app, and sign into your iTunes account. It looks like billing will be through Apple iTunes Store, at least initially (though HBO has you sign up as well – so I suspect that may separate some day).

Update The new HBO Now channel does not show up directly on my older 2nd generation AppleTVs, but I can AirPlay from my iPhone and iPad to the 2nd generation AppleTV just fine, and the resolution is beautiful.

Damn, the price of success is ugly….

For a very long time Mac OS X was very, very safe. Still no known viruses today, and very little malware, mostly exploiting Java, Flash, or SilverLight. That was due to two huge advantages: 1) a vastly more secure operating system than Microsoft Windows, and 2) a tiny user base not worth targeting with slimy malware.

Now Mac OS X is the most popular full computer operating system in the world on new computers. If you include tablets, OS X is in third place behind Android variants and iOS. While this is a huge success for Apple, it brings with it a giant new status as target for malware writers… and although the operating system is still very, very secure… social engineering (tricking humans to install malware) has become vastly more sophisticated….

I need to read this in more detail, but the brave new world of malware and crud has arrived for OS X users… be careful where you get your applications from and verify it is only from trusted sources.

http://www.howtogeek.com/210589/mac-os-x-isn’t-safe-anymore-the-crapware-malware-epidemic-has-begun/

Fun assertion: “Java was responsible for 91% of attacks in 2013.”

unlocked black 32GB iPhone 4S for sale

I have an unlocked, formerly AT&T, 32GB black iPhone 4S in absolutely mint condition (always been inside a LifeProof case) with original box and materials for sale. Contact me if interested. It is currently running iOS 8.1.2, but 8.1.3 is a trivial update for it.

Cold Weather Tips

Oh my it’s cold… Stay warm folks. Keep a towel and blanket and snow shovel in the car. Extra mittens, scarves, and hoods/hats don’t hurt either.

This cold, lift your wipers up off the windshield… Plan your trips between car and building carefully before opening the door and making the trip.

The long term forecast has no chance to melt anything – so if it does snow – clean it all the way to pavement this time, the usual mid-Atlantic regional habit of letting the sun melt the last bit will not work this week… it is not getting warm enough for several days.