A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for July, 2013

Bradley Manning Facing Over a Century in a Cage for Doing the Right Thing

without comments

The who trial of Bradly Manning finally concluded yesterday. Manning was acquitted of the most severe charge, aiding the enemy, but was found guilty of 19 other charges:

FORT MEADE, Md. — Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who laid bare America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by covertly transmitting a massive trove of sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks, has been convicted on 19 of 21 charges, including 6 counts of espionage. He was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, the most serious and controversial charge laid against him.

[…]

Manning now faces up to 136 years in prison on his convictions.

Over a century in a cage for revealing the war crimes? The message being sent by the state is quite clear. While the state can intercept and listen to our phone calls, collect and read our e-mails, keep records of our purchases, and otherwise collect intelligence on us without our knowledge the agreement isn’t reciprocal. Or, to put it more succinctly:


Image courtesy of the Punk Rock Libertarians Facebook page.

The state wants to maintain tabs on every person but will throw anybody who attempts to maintain tabs on it into a cage for the rest of their miserable life. Charges of cowardice were aimed at Edward Snowden when he fled the country but Manning’s trial demonstrates that Snowden did the smart thing. Staying in the United States after revealing its misdeeds is a recipe for disaster.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 31st, 2013 at 11:00 am

Why I Don’t Advocate Carry Permit Holders Volunteer the Information that They’re Carrying to Police Officers

without comments

A common hypothetical scenario kicked around by carry permit holders is what to do if you’re pulled over by a police officer. Many permit holders and trainers say that you should placed your hands on your steering wheel and inform the police officer that you’re a permit holder and are currently armed. I’m a member of the other camp, which says to never volunteer such information to a police officer. In Minnesota you’re required to tell a police officer if you’re carrying a firearm if asked but you’re not required to volunteer such information. Stories like this are why I don’t advocate volunteering such information:

This is very disturbing. Received this message from a resident just now. This happened at 1:15 today. If you have any doubts about anyone in a uniform who comes to your house claiming to be LEO, utility/service company, etc., don’t hesitate to call 911 or the company to verify the person’s ID and that they are legit.
***
“22nd and California St. I had a deputy come to my home and said he had a summons. It was fake and so was he. He kept looking in my house asking questions about what was inside. Called the 2nd, Hennepin co and Mpls police- no deputies were in the area today or dispatched. He did not ask who i was or state who he was. Be careful he looked real. Neighbor said she saw a sheriff’s car in front of her house and it moved down to a couple of other homes. It was not real but looked Very real she said.”

Is the customer-clad man who pulled you over a police officer or is he a member of a competing gang? The customer itself, although adorned with a shiny badge, doesn’t guarantee that a man with a gun is in the employ of the state. While any encounter with a police officer carries the risk of violence the risk is even higher if the person who looks like a cop turns out to be a member of one of the police department’s competing gangs. If you tell the man in blue (or brown, in the case of the Minnesota State Patrol) that you’re carrying a gun you may have just revealed your ace in the hole to a person who intends to assault or murder you and steal your belongings.

I advise permit holders to play their cards as close to their chest as possible. There’s no way to know whether or not a person is a real cop or an impersonator, unless you know him or her personally (and then you never know whether or not the person is living a double life). As always, I urge you to follow the path you believe is most appropriate but do know that there are potential consequences to revealing your hand unnecessarily.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 31st, 2013 at 10:30 am

The Importance of Business Models

without comments

When Google announced that it was killing Reader I went on the lookout for a new Really Simple Syndication (RSS) service. During my quest I came up with several “must have” features including Reeder support (either current or upcoming), a decent online interface, and a coherent business model. The last requirement may surprise many people who sought a free service to replace Google’s free service but I didn’t want to again encounter the hassle of finding an alternative service anytime soon. I settled on Feedbin, in part, because the developed had a business model (at the come I signed up he charged $2.00 a month or $20.00 a year, now he charges $3.00 a month or $30.00 a year). Since the developer of Feedbin makes a profit from his service I doubt it’s going to go away anytime soon so it’s unlikely that I’ll have to deal with this:

Since we launched first public version almost a year ago up until March 2013 we have been working on The Old Reader in “normal” mode. In March things became “nightmare”, but we kept working hard and got things done. First, we were out of evenings, then out of weekends and holidays, and then The Old Reader was the only thing left besides our jobs. Last week difficulty level was changed to “hell” in every possible aspect we could imagine, we have been sleep deprived for 10 days and this impacts us way too much. We have to look back.

The truth is, during last 5 months we have had no work life balance at all. The “life” variable was out of equation: you can limit hours, make up rules on time management, but this isn’t going to work if you’re running a project for hundreds of thousands of people.

[…]

That’s why The Old Reader has to change. We have closed user registration, and we plan to shut the public site down in two weeks.

It’s unfortunate that the developers of The Old Reader felt as thought maintaining the site was, in their words, hell. But the part that made me roll my eyes was the following:

For those who would like to start the usual “VC, funding, mentor” or “charge for the damn thing” mantras — please, spare it. We’re not in the Valley where it might be super-easy, and, after all, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. We just love making a good RSS reader.

It’s true, not everybody wants to be an entrepreneur but it’s also true that working on a project is much more fulfilling when one gets paid to do it. I have a lot of hobbies, and they often cost a fair amount of money, but I put my truly useful skills, the ones that can be used to provider services that other people want, to work in a manner that makes money. Getting paid motivates me to do a good job and continue on with the job even during those times that it sucks. In all likelihood the developers of The Old Reader wouldn’t find their work hell if they were receiving a decent paycheck for their efforts. When Feedbin began to gain subscribers the service started to become slow. Did the developer quit because the complaints ate away at his soul? No, he improved the service because he was making money from his efforts. It was a win-win situation. He received money for his work and his users received a kick ass RSS service.

Business models are too often undeveloped in the technology field. Great developers create great services without having any workable strategy to monetize their efforts. This lack of foresight tends to have one or two results: either the service is purchased by a large service provider, such as Google, or the service is shutdown when the hassle of maintaining and improving it becomes too great.

If you create a great service don’t be afraid to ask for payment. It’ll work out better for both you and your users. Likewise, if you want to utilized a great service don’t get angry when the developer asks to be paid. It’ll work out better for both you and the developer.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 31st, 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Economics

Tagged with

The State’s Continuing War with Liberty

without comments

The state has always been at war with Eurasia Eastasia liberty but it has seldom been as overt as it is today:

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports on the desire of Concord, NH, police to get all militaried up with Bearcat armored SWAT vehicles, paid for by the federal Department of Homeland Security, natch.

Excerpts:

[…]

In its grant application to DHS, the police department said New Hampshire’s experience with terrorism “slants primarily towards the domestic type,” and said “the threat is real and here.”

“Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges,” the application stated. In addition to organized groups, it cited “several homegrown clusters that are anti-government and pose problems for law enforcement agencies.”

Emphasis mine. The groups rattled off in the application tend to be extremely peaceful. The Free Staters are especially peaceful and their shenanigans can best be described as acts of peaceful civil disobedience. What’s laughable is the claim that the mentioned organizations haven’t caused problems for law enforcement agencies. If a law enforcement agency; all of which are already armed with squad cards, rifles, handguns, pepper spray, batons, and other weapons; are currently having problem with anti-government organizations then a Bearcat isn’t going to change anything. Bearcats, although impressive looking, aren’t likely to intimidate individuals who oppose the state if the current implements held by police agencies haven’t.

I doubt this application has anything to do with the Free Staters, Occupiers, or any other anti-state organization. The Concord police department want more toys because they’re jealous that everybody else has them. What’s worrisome is that police agencies with new toys always feel the need to use them, which is how innocent people get hurt or killed. I’m sure the application will go through and the Concord police will have a shiny Bearcat to call their own but, for the sake of everybody’s safety, I really hope it doesn’t.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Exploiting Automobiles

without comments

It has been apparent since automobile manufacturers began inserting computers into automobiles that security hasn’t been a high priority. After decades of warnings the automobile manufacturers may finally be forced to deal with their lack of foresight:

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek say they will publish detailed blueprints of techniques for attacking critical systems in the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape in a 100-page white paper, following several months of research they conducted with a grant from the U.S. government.

The two “white hats” – hackers who try to uncover software vulnerabilities before criminals can exploit them – will also release the software they built for hacking the cars at the Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas this week.

They said they devised ways to force a Toyota Prius to brake suddenly at 80 miles an hour, jerk its steering wheel, or accelerate the engine. They also say they can disable the brakes of a Ford Escape traveling at very slow speeds, so that the car keeps moving no matter how hard the driver presses the pedal.

One of the golden rule of security is that exploits only become more elaborate with time. It sounds like the exploits that will be demonstrated at Defcon will require physical access to the automobile but, in all likelihood, the ability to remotely execute these exploits will show up shortly after the paper is published. All modern automobiles have tire pressure sensors (all of which, as far as I know, are wireless) and many now have Bluetooth, both of which could be potential avenues for remote attacks. It will be interesting to see the ramifications of this research in a few years.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 30th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Posted in News You Need to Know

Tagged with ,

Bloomberg’s Traveling Circus to Visit Minneapolis Tomorrow

without comments

It was brought to my attention that Michael Bloomberg’s touring circus will be in Minneapolis tomorrow:

Inspired by the Newtown school shooting, a touring national gun-control campaign endorsed by the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul stops Wednesday in downtown Minneapolis for a rally outside the federal courthouse.

Gun rights advocates are spreading the word and reviewing the legalities of showing up with their firearms.

The “No More Names” rally gets underway at 10 a.m. at the courthouse plaza at 300 S. 4th St. The signature event during the rally is when participants read the names of gun violence victims since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December in Newtown, Conn.

The six-week-old tour is organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 1,000 mayors that says it is the largest gun violence prevention advocacy group in the country.

I’m sure this will be the standard affair. Bloomberg’s posse will arrive, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul will give some speeches about the dangers of gun violence, and the mayors will duck out and the truck with cruise off before any questions can be fielded. Apparently some gun owners are planning a counter-protests:

A Twin Cities gun-ownership group is advising any of its members who might attend the rally to “be peaceful and respectful” but to also “be recognizable as opposing Bloomberg’s rights-stripping, criminal mayors’ organization with clothing, hats, and/or signage.”

On its Facebook page, the Twin Cities Gun Owners & Carry Forum cautions its supporters to “watch for agitators and don’t take the bait.”

I’m not planning to attend since I have better things to do than give the time of day to a group of exploitative vultures. For those of you planning to attend I encourage you to dress professionally and speak intelligently. While the various local news organizations will happily air somebody dressed slovenly, especially if they also speak unintelligibly, they probably won’t air anybody dressed nicely, especially if they speak intelligently. When given the option between looking like a fool or being ignored it’s best to take the latter. Or you can ignore the whole circus since it’s organizers are irrelevant and undeserving of our attention.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am

Laugh of the Day: White House Telecom Adviser Proposes Privacy Code of Conduct

without comments

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the top telecom adviser to the White House, has laughably proposed a code of conduct for apps:

WASHINGTON — Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling issued the following statement on the multistakeholder process to develop the first privacy code of conduct aimed at improving disclosures on mobile devices.

“NTIA is pleased that today a diverse group of stakeholders reached a seminal milestone in the efforts to enhance consumer privacy on mobile devices. We encourage all the companies that participated in the discussion to move forward to test the code with their consumers. I want to congratulate all of the participants, who through their commitment and dedication have demonstrated the promise and importance of the multistakeholder policy-making process.”

What makes this laughable is the fact that any privacy policy that is developed will almost certainly take the form of “Signatories to this contract agree to share no personal information about users with anybody, except the National Security Agency (NSA), for whom it will be mandatory to share with.”

Written by Christopher Burg

July 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am

The Price of a Pervasive Surveillance State

without comments

In an unsurprising turn of events it appears as though the National Security Agency’s (NSA) pervasive surveillance operation is having some negative consequences (besides making the serfs all uppidy):

Two years ago, I was interviewing the CIO of a major Canadian healthcare organization for a story on cloud computing, and asked if he had considered using US cloud providers or software-as-a-service. He said that he couldn’t even begin to consider those because of concerns because of Canadian patient privacy laws—not just because of differences between US and Canadian laws, but because of the assumption that NSA would gain access to patient records as they crossed the border.

At the time, the concern might have sounded a bit paranoid. But now that those concerns have been validated by the details revealed by Snowden, US cloud providers are losing existing customers from outside the US, according to the CSA study. The survey of members of the organization found that 10 percent of non-US member companies had cancelled contracts with US providers as a result of revelations about PRISM.

The PRISM revelations are also making it harder for US companies to get new business abroad. Of the non-US respondents to the survey, 56 percent are now less likely to consider doing business with a US service provider. And 36 percent of respondents from US companies said that the Snowden “incident” was making it harder for them to do business overseas.

The serfs aren’t the only people upset by the NSA’s antics. Online service providers, who need to please the serfs enough to convince them to sign up for online services, aren’t very happy either. I’m sure the potential economic impact was one of the key reasons that the NSA kept its program so quiet (if people start making a mass exodus away from the services the NSA is using to spy on people then they won’t be able to spy on those people as effectively).

Written by Christopher Burg

July 29th, 2013 at 10:30 am

Monday Metal: Age of Shadows by Ayreon

without comments

It’s Monday morning, which means it’s time for more metal:

Written by Christopher Burg

July 29th, 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

Tagged with

The State Fails to Stop the Signal

without comments

Earlier this year the United States government attempt to suppress Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models for 3D printable firearms from being distributed by placing them under the control of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). By bringing ITAR into the equation the state was able to label those CAD models as munitions and prevent them from being legally exported from the country. Since those CAD models are under ITAR regulations I’m completely baffled by this story:

Less than two months after the debut of the first almost entirely 3D-printed handgun, a Canadian gunsmith has created the first 3D printed rifle.

The gun maker, who goes by the online handle CanadianGunNut, is an active user on DEFCAD, the primary online forum for 3D-printed firearms.

Doesn’t he know that the idea for 3D printable firearms originated in the United States and it is therefore illegal to export that idea, now that it has been labeled a munition, to his native country of Canada?

Information control, like gun control, is a foolhardy dream that can never be realized. Throughout our history handfuls of individuals have attempted to suppress information they believed to be harmful but failed as other individuals discovered more effective ways to disseminate information. 3D printable firearms are in their infancy but this will change as 3D printer technology improves and becomes more widely available to the masses. Eventually we will be able to print off firearms that are every bit as good as, or better than, currently manufactured firearms. Now that the state is in a position where it has to stifle both information and physical firearms its goal is completely unattainable.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 26th, 2013 at 11:30 am