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Steven Levy nails it, again – why are we fighting for the right to privacy again?

Steven Levy has an excellent article about the current attempt to squash privacy and encryption by the FBI and why this all sounds so familiar, it’s because we already had this battle before, twice, in the 1990s… and both times wisdom prevailed. Will it prevail again?

https://backchannel.com/why-are-we-fighting-the-crypto-wars-again-b5310a423295

Remember the dreaded “Clipper” chip and everyone worrying about Net Nannies with the Gores at the helm? Hell, our entire electronic commerce system only works because of public key cryptography. If agencies are allowed back doors into that, then there ultimately is no way to trust electronic financial transactions at all.

Excellent reading, and thank you Apple for fighting the good fight for the rest of us.

Vegetable Garden, 2016

Having a gently warm spring weekend has encouraged me to start on the garden this year; so far I am just tilling the soil with an old garden fork and thinking about how best to prevent deer and rabbit from eating everything.

Empty garden bed, ready for fence and seeds.

Fresh tilled garden bed.

Remaining from prior years is a little Rosemary, a lot of Oregano, the heavy trimmed back Fig tree/bush, and one or two carrots. I plan to rotate the plantings and put corn, squash, peas, beans, and lettuces in the big bed (it housed tomatoes, melons, zucchini, and radishes last year) and put tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in the triangular bed this year. Herbs and chili peppers stay where it is hot, tight against the garage wall.

While out clearing leaves and dead-fall from winter, I found a few treasures to share and noticed that the cherry tree has buds forming:

tiny irises

tiny irises

tiny daffodils

tiny daffodils

hyacinth I think

hyacinth I think

more hyacinth?

more hyacinth?

Tagged

Ransomware targeting Mac OS X posing as Transmission 2.90

It looks like some extortionists hijacked the transmissionbt.com website, and published for about 36-48 hours a fake version of Transmission (bitTorrent client) that claims to be v2.90 but is actually RansomWare that will encrypt your files and demand payment for decryption keys. Don’t use Transmission v2.90 and be careful out there.

http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/03/first-mac-targeting-ransomware-hits-transmission-users-researchers-say/

I guess Mac OS X has finally achieved mainstream status if the bad guys are really targeting it now. Prior fake malware has all been posing as illegal/unlicensed copies of commercial software, so far as I know this one is a first to target through freeware.

AppleTV (4th Generation) with tvOS

I am testing a new (4th generation, Oct 2015) AppleTV as a replacement for my 2nd generation AppleTV (Sep 2010).
My initial impression is overwhelmingly positive! I am finally replacing the older AppleTVs entirely.

I was an early adopter, got my first AppleTV (Silver, ran stripped version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger with FrontRow) when they first announced the device in 2007, mostly as an experiment in bringing internet content (YouTube, iTunes Movie rentals, Flickr) to my big TV screen. I liked it so much I hacked it to do Boxee and Xbox Media Center (XBMC) and bought one with a 160GB drive a few months later for the basement recreation room.

When the little black 2nd generation AppleTVs came out in 2010 I was skeptical, but experimented again, and at first was not impressed. The move to iOS without any applications was a hindrance, and I had come to rely on XBMC seeing my big media share of my own library of content… Then in January 2011 they were jailbroken and XBMC and Boxee and Nito were all available and I switched to 2nd generation AppleTVs with every TV… and there I stayed…

The 3rd generation (2012) AppleTV, and it’s faster revision (2013) did not interest me as they could not be jailbroken; and without XBMC access to my growing library of media served from an old Mac Mini, they simply were not viable.

In 2014 I started looking at Roku as an alternative… I really like iTunes access (no other digital streaming catalog has closed captioning as good as iTunes) and AirPlay had become essential… but Roku had much more stable XBMC and Plex clients for seeing my huge media library and they came with support for Amazon Prime as well (something AppleTVs still don’t do). Roku3 remains a top recommendation from me.

I am thrilled that the new AppleTV (Oct 2015) finally gives me the best of almost all worlds. I downloaded the free app Plex and with Plex Media Center (free download) loaded on my old Mac Mini my huge library is available on the latest/greatest AppleTV that does AirPlay, HBO Now, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix. I see no reason (other than budget) not to replace all the old 2nd generation AppleTVs with the new ones. So now what do I do with three hacked AppleTVs?

Huge honorable mention goes to Roku who has two models now (Roku3 and Roku4) that are simply astounding streaming media players – they too do Plex out of the box, they also do HBO Now, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube. The Roku does not have Apple’s App ecosystem, and it does not have AirPlay support nor iTunes media support; but it does do Amazon Prime, and is a little cheaper, and has the amazing headphones jack on the remote feature that is spectacular.

4th Generation AppleTV Out of the Box experience:
1) I love that it automatically pairs with an existing iOS device (iPhone/iPad) to grab AppleID and avoid some typing manually through the cumbersome remote controlled on screen keyboard.
2) I love that it detected wired ethernet and automatically set that up correctly even after seeing Wi-Fi on my iPhone.
3) I love that some apps (YouTube) send you to a website on a laptop/desktop/tablet/phone with a simple code to avoid some typing manually through the cumbersome remote controlled on screen keyboard your long login/password to YouTube/Google.
4) I love being able to move the apps around so that Plex, HBO Now, Computers, and Search are at the top of the screen instead of the much more infrequently used iTunes Movies, iTunes TV, iTunes Music and Photos.
5) I love the new remote, much easier to swipe through menus and settings in general, though I do miss the Remote app on my iPhone working with the AppleTV (that was better still, and made typing in passwords much faster).
6) I HATE that connecting to Computers for Home Sharing, connecting to HBO Now and most other accounts requires the manual remote control based hunt and peck username and password keystroke entry – this is a HORRIBLE experience and needs to be beaten out of every interface. It would be acceptable with the Remote App working again, or any BlueTooth keyboard – but neither is an option yet… and it is painful to set up accounts.
7) Switching from Kodi/XBMC to Plex is a big change, but not as big as I was worried about – and it turns out to be VERY pleasant; the ordering of shows, the marking of what was watched and remains unwatched is a breeze through Plex Media Server’s web based software (on the computer/server) and the Plex client is fast and beautiful and easy to use. Huge improvement over XBMC Gotham (13.2) that I was using.
8) I love that AirPlay once again works from those devices I foolishly upgraded to iOS 9 before updating my old AppleTVs (iOS 9 devices cannot AirPlay display to older AppleTVs any more).
9) I have not figured out how to load key features from the AppleTV remote into my Logitech universal remote yet – and I need to at least get the basics set up there – but for now we have two remotes in use.

I may go to a mixed AppleTV 4 and Roku 4 household; because I love AirPlay, gaming apps, and iTunes Media on AppleTV; and I love Amazon Prime and remote based headphones on Roku.

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.