A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for August, 2015

Monday Metal: The Birth Of Evil By Ancient Bards

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Written by Christopher Burg

August 31st, 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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Nothing To See Here

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Instead of typing posts for your reading pleasure I spent last night replacing networking equipment. For the last several years my network has been running off of a Netgear router. Last week I could hear the bearing in the router’s fan starting to go to Hell so I started looking for a replacement (admittedly I could have replaced the fan but that device is so old it doesn’t even have IPv6 support so it was a good excuse to upgrade).

For AgoraFest we’ve been using Ubiquiti access points to build our mesh network. I’ve really enjoyed working with the hardware so I decided to look into Ubiquiti’s wired options. As it turns out their wired networking equipment is pretty nice so I ordered an EdgeRouter Lite and EdgeSwitch Lite (the Lite versions lack Power over Ethernet, which I didn’t need). They’re now up and running. I still have to fine tune the configurations but you can see this site so the important work is done.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in Side Notes

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Screw Your Politics

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As I’m sure most of you have heard by now there was a shooting yesterday. This one was different because it happened on live television and the shooter tweeted about it. There isn’t much to say about the event itself. Two people, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, were gunned down by a piece of shit who shall go unnamed here. But the event itself lead way to disgusting politicking.

Before the blood had a chance to dry I saw anti-gunners swooping in to exploit everybody’s emotions to demand gun control. I saw pro-gun people bitch about the two victim’s lack of situational awareness. Some neoliberals first blamed the event on racism and some neocons responded by posting #WhiteRightsMatter (I’m not even fucking shitting you).

Nobody could wait even one goddamn day before exploiting this tragedy for personal gain. If you were one of these people I have only one thing to say: fuck you.

There’s no need to insert your political bullshit into this and there’s no reason you need to rebut your opponent’s political bullshit with your own.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Embrace Automation

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Believe it or not quite a few of my friends happen to be communists. One of them specifically dubs himself as an advocate of fully automated luxury communism. Unlike most forms of communism, fully automated luxury communism has a foundation to work from:

Located on the futurist left end of the political spectrum, fully automated luxury communism (FALC) aims to embrace automation to its fullest extent. The term may seem oxymoronic, but that’s part of the point: anything labeled luxury communism is going to be hard to ignore.

“There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”

Bastani and fellow luxury communists believe that this era of rapid change is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people.

I think phrases like “common ownership of automation” and “heavy lifting not for profit but for the people” are pretty nonsensical but the basic ideology, letting machines do all of the work, is what I’ve been espousing here. The reason I mention these fully automated luxury communists is because they’re the first communists I’ve come across that are screaming for more automation instead of bitching about machines taking jobs.

Imagine a world where food production is entirely automated and in such abundance nobody has to labor to produce it unless they enjoy doing so. Imagine buildings being constructed by squads of automated robots. Imagine abundances of energy being beamed down from orbital solar collectors. In such a world the necessities of survival would potentially be so cheap to produce and so abundant that even the poorest person could afford them.

Over the years I’ve shifted my views quite a bit. If you read the archives of this blog you’ll see my slow transformation from a constitutional libertarian to an anarcho-capitalist to a slightly more left-leaning anarchist to my current position today, which can basically be summed up as wanting to advance technology as much as possible for the purposes of liberation. Advancements in technology can enable liberation by lessening humanity’s dependence on centralized hierarchies. This strategy not only improves the overall quality of life but also don’t rely on the mob mentality of politics. To advance technology I don’t need to get a majority of people to vote my way. I can either directly create or partner with people creating new technologies. It’s the ultimate libertarian strategy because it relies on individual efforts instead of mobs.

Although I don’t subscribe to the communist part of automated luxury communism I do share a similar dream and can say I have far more in common with them then I do with many libertarians.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 27th, 2015 at 10:30 am

AT&T Demonstrates Why HTTPS Is Needed Everywhere

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Ads have become a notable threat to computer security. While they are a fact of life for accessing content without paying directly for it you wouldn’t expect a company that you pay money to to infest your web experiences with ads. But some companies like to double dip. AT&T is one of those companies. In addition to getting customers to pay for hotspots AT&T is also maliciously inserting ads into websites visiting through its hotspots:

While traveling through Dulles Airport last week, I noticed an Internet oddity. The nearby AT&T hotspot was fairly fast—that was a pleasant surprise.

But the web had sprouted ads. Lots of them, in places they didn’t belong.

[…]

Curious, and waiting on a delayed flight, I started poking through web source. It took little time to spot the culprit: AT&T’s wifi hotspot was tampering with HTTP traffic.

The ad injection platform appears to be a service from RaGaPa, a small startup. Their video pitch features “MONETIZE YOUR NETWORK” over cascading dollar signs. (Seriously.)

When an HTML page loads over HTTP, the hotspot makes three edits. (HTTPS traffic is immune, since it’s end-to-end secure.)

First, the hotspot adds an advertising stylesheet.

[…]

Next, it injects a backup advertisement, in case a browser doesn’t support JavaScript. It appears that the hotspot intercepts /ragapa URLs and resolves them to advertising images.

[…]

Finally, the hotspot adds a pair of scripts for controlling advertisement loading and display.

The title of this post promised Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) so some may be wondering what HTTPS has to do with ad injection. Simply put, this kind of bullshit can’t happen when the connection between a client and the server is encrypted. A man in the middle, which AT&T is in this case, cannot see the contents of an encrypted communication and if attempts to make any sort of alteration the decryption process will fail.

You won’t see any AT&T injected ads on this blog because everything is secured with HTTPS (the insecure HTTP interface just 301 redirects to the HTTPS connection). If every website did this the business model being used by RaGaPa, the ad injection services being used by AT&T, would be a total failure.

Securing connections doesn’t just protect against eavesdropping. It also protects again altering the contents, which can be just as big of a problem if not an even bigger one. In fact content integrity is another reason why the “nothing to hide” crowd should be ignored in discussions of pervasive cryptography. Cryptography is about so much more than hiding content.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Work Is Replaceable

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Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed yet I’m still subjected daily to the whining of people worried about the jobs. What will happen to people working checkout aisles at convenience stores if everybody uses kiosks? How will employees at McDonald’s afford housing if they’re replaced by kiosks? Where will people working in manufacturing go if 3D printers make their jobs unnecessary? Then you have the people, usually old folks, bitching about the current generation not working as hard. You would think any 20-something working less than 80 hours a week was some kind of lazy bums. And don’t even get me started on the people worried that there won’t be as much work available in the future because of automation.

You’re reading this so I infer that you both have access to a computer and aren’t currently working (even if you’re at work). Two things about these inferences should amaze you. First, you have access to an incredibly complex piece of machinery that has went from non-existent to pervasive throughout society in roughly half of a century. Second, you don’t have to perform hard labor every minute of the day just to survive.

It’s true, automation has replaced a lot of jobs. It’s also true that automation has allowed us to work less than the previous generation and still enjoy a better standard of living. That’s the beauty of automation. Not only does it replace hard labor with easier jobs but it also allows us to generate the same wealth in less time.

I, like you, am not spending every moment of daylight hunting animals or gathering berries. Usually I put in around eight hours five days a week. For those 40 hours a week most of it is spent sitting on my ass in front of a computer. The most strenuous effort I have to put forth most working periods is moving my fingers thousands of times to different keyboard positions so I can properly enter in the correct sequence of characters to convince a computer to do what I would rather not do myself. Programming is much easier than automotive repair, which is what my father does. I also work fewer hours than he does.

In most cases when a job is replaced with automation it reduces the amount of physical effort needed overall. You know the socialist dream of abolishing work? It becomes a little more feasible everyday as we make better use of advancing technology. Human history is actually a lengthy demonstration of this point. This generation is lazier than the previous, the previous generation is lazier than its predecessors, and so on.

This is why I scoff at neophobes and why I roll my eyes when some union leader is bitching about the machines replacing jobs. I don’t want to struggle every waking hour to obtain enough food to eek out a substance living. Fuck everything about that! What I want to do is go home after doing what little work I need and enjoy myself. Machines can create more wealth than I can so let them do it. I’ll enjoy the product of their labor.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Rights Are Privileges, Right?

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I wasn’t going for a theme with my titles today but the opportunity presented itself so I seized the moment. There are a lot of authors who write about guns that I respect. Bob Owens isn’t one of them. Although I won’t go so far as to call him a racist I will say that every time his writings touch on the subject of race he comes off sounding racist. That doesn’t sit well with me. Another thing that doesn’t sit well with me is his belief that gun ownership is a privilege that should be rightfully curtailed by the State.

This isn’t an idea he uniquely holds. Many self-proclaimed supporters of gun rights actually view gun ownership as a privilege. They only differ from the anti-gun crowd in what restrictions they believe should be put on gun ownership. Owens’ latest article is an example of a restriction that many supposed gun rights activists support:

A recent decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that says illegal aliens—what the left likes to call “undocumented immigrants”—enjoy a Second Amendment right to bear arms, even if their presence in this nation is criminal.

[…]

My basic, over-riding belief on the Second Amendment is that any case involving the right to keep and bear arms should be held to the legal standard of strict scrutiny, and that all law-abiding citizens and legal resident aliens should have the right to keep and bear arms.

Anybody who has been reading this blog for a while knows what I’m going to reference. When the list of crimes is so expansive that the average working professional commits three felonies a day the term law-abiding loses any meaning. Taken to its logical conclusion arguing that the right to bear arms is dependent on an individual being law-abiding is an argument that nobody should be allowed to own firearms.

As with most supposed defenders of gun rights, Owens felt the best way to support his argument for restriction was to summon the spirit of the most holy Founding Fathers:

Call me a “butter” if you want, but I don’t think for a second that the Founding Fathers would support the concept of granting criminal invaders the same legal status as legal immigrants, legal resident aliens, and citizens. Let’s hope that when this case makes it to the Supreme Court that the justices with the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth circuit courts.

Praise be to the Founding Fathers!

This paragraph is laughable on so many levels. The most obvious is that the Founding Fathers were criminal invaders themselves. After tossing out the British and solidifying their power the Founding Fathers returned their attention to slaughtering the American Indian population.

Another reason it’s laughable is the way immigration was handled by the Founding Fathers. When they penned the Constitution they effective left the question of immigration entirely to Congress. It wasn’t until 1790 that Congress decided to write a law involving immigration. The Naturalization Act of 1790 established rules that allowed an immigrant to become a United States citizen. One of the more notable restrictions placed on naturalization by Congress was race. The restricted naturalization to “free white persons.” But I digress. While the act established rules for foreigners to become citizens it did not establish rules for deporting non-citizens. It wasn’t until 1882 that Congress got around to restricting immigration in some manner. It seems the Founding Fathers had little or not concept of legal or illegal immigration nor did Congress members of the time.

Just to be thorough it’s probably worth noting the Bill of Rights doesn’t mention a stipulation of citizenship anywhere. It makes reference to “the people” but not “citizens of the United States.” Setting aside the Founding Fathers’ views on race I think the wording of the Bill of Rights implies that it applies to all people within the United States, not just citizens.

I’m not of the opinion that the Bill of Rights grants rights. My definition of a right is an act not inhibited by a coercive hierarchy. If gun ownership, for example, is a right then it must be practicable by everybody, not just a handful selected by the State. The view expressed by Owens, and those who agree with him, would lead to an Orwellian dystopia where due process could be denied to somebody who wasn’t a citizen. I’m certainly not comfortable denying somebody accused of a crime a jury trial simply because they’re not a citizen.

If you call an act a right then list a bunch of stipulations that you believe should be placed on that act you’re arguing it’s a privilege, not a right.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 26th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Correlation And Causality Are The Same Thing, Right?

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Opponents of self-defense are becoming more desperate as they become more irrelevant. Advocates of self-defense have thoroughly crushed the claims of their ideological opposites over the years so you would think the issue would be put to rest. But it isn’t. Instead opponents of self-defense have been busily massaging data until it fits their narrative. Their latest exercise in massaging data was to look at the rate of firearm ownership and the number of officers killed per state:

Using a regression statistical analysis, the authors found that occupational homicide for law enforcement was correlated with higher rates of firearm ownership. The analysis controlled for the violent crime rate, which indicated that these higher rates of homicide couldn’t simply be attributed to more frequent violent crimes occurring in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Instead, higher rates of law enforcement homicides were associated with more frequent encounters with violent criminals and with more frequent exposure to situations where privately owned firearms were present.

However, there were limitations to this study related to the gun ownership rates. There is no standard measure of annual firearm ownership rates—while the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is widely considered to be the best measure available, questions about gun ownership were only included in the survey for three years: 2001, 2002, and 2004.

I think the first thing worth pointing out is there’s no way to know how accurate the study is because there is no standard measure of firearm ownership. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is a survey so the answers are based on the information voluntarily divulged by participants. Firearm ownership, which the study has asked directly about, is something people are more likely to not volunteer information about.

The second thing that needs to be pointed out is that this study established a correlation:

The authors conclude that higher levels of private firearm ownership increase the likelihood that law enforcement officers will face life-threatening situations on the job. The authors state that a 10 percent increase in firearm ownership at the state level correlated to 10 additional law enforcement homicides over the 15-year period that was examined in this study.

Apparently the authors don’t understand that correlation does not imply causality. Correlation justifies further study of a phenomenon that appear related. But you shouldn’t state a conclusion based on a correlation. There are other possible explanations for a correlation between firearm ownership and the number of officers killed on the job. For example, officers being killed on the job may convince people to purchase firearms for self-defense. In that case a higher number of officer deaths could lead to a higher rate of firearm ownership.

So today’s lessons are, one, studies based on data of an unknown quality are questionable at best and, two, correlation does not imply causality.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Giving Versus Exchanging

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“What do you do for a living?” “Me? Oh, I’m a programmer.” “You know computers? Can you help me fix mine?” How many of you have had this exact conversation? Judging by conversations with my computer savvy friends there is a 100% correlation between having computer knowledge and being asked to fix computers. The same applies to having any skill set. When I was working as a mechanic people would ask me to look at their cars when I wasn’t at work. The issue isn’t people asking me to fix their computers or vehicles but the expectation that I will do it for free.

Whenever somebody asks me to fix their computer or vehicles I have a standard response: “Absolutely! Let’s discuss prices.” Usually the person asking seems to be offended by that response. It’s as if they believe my time and knowledge, which they have admitted to wanting, are somehow worthless.

This may be the only time you’ll see my reference Atlas Shrugged. Although it’s dreck any novel that’s 1,000,000,000 pages long is likely to make at least one valid point if for no other reason than by accident. There is a scene where Objectivst Jesus is going to take Dangy on a tour of his holy land. Since he’s the messiah he has no need for worldly possessions or something and needs to borrow a car. When he calls up his disciple to ask to borrow the car a price in gold is negotiated. That scene stuck with me because both characters expected an exchange, not for one to give to the other (in fact Objectivist Jesus then made a quip about “give” being some kind of dirty work in his valley). Thinking back on it I think I understand why the novel is so popular with high school students who have been indoctrinated to “share” (really to give something of theirs up without compensation) for most of their lives. But I digress.

The difference between most people who ask me to fix their computers or vehicles and the scene I just described in Atlas Shrugged is that the former expects me to give while the latter expects an exchange. Giving dictates that somebody who has something should allow other people to have it without expecting any compensation. Exchanging dictates that goods and services have value and therefore are deserving of compensation.

When you ask somebody to borrow or do something for free you’re being hypocritical. First you’re implying you don’t believe the thing you’re requesting has any real value by not offering anything for it while also necessarily implying the thing has value by wanting it.

It’s a bit offensive to have somebody imply my skills are worthless and then ask to benefit from them. That’s not to say I expect everybody to offer me the usual market value of my time. Even a token offering is appreciated. For example, the cost of the time needed to fix a computer is usually higher than the cost of a box of cookies. But I’m still willing to fix a computer for people I know if they offer to bake me some cookies. Usually I’ll turn down the offer (then they’ll insist and bake them anyways) because it’s not about the payment, it’s about the acknowledgement that my skills are worth something to them (a token of appreciation if you will).

The idea behind an exchange is that two people are in possession of something the other wants. Both people feel as though they’ll be better off in the end if they exchange their thing for the other person’s thing. Exchanges are the foundation of markets so in a way markets are a mechanism for people to compliment one another. When you offer to make an exchange you’re complimenting the other person’s effort by saying effort is worth more than something you have.

If you’re one of those people who reflexively asks, “Will you fix my computer,” every time somebody says they make a living off of computers please stop. Instead ask something like, “What would you charge me to fix my computer?” At the very least please don’t get offended when the computer person asks for something in exchange. Their time, like your time, is worth money. Acknowledge that mutual worth.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am

More Permit Holders, No Blood In The Streets

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When Minnesota’s permit to carry law was liberalized in 2003 the anti-self-defense crowd screamed there would be blood in the streets. Here we are 11 years latter and the number of permit holders in the state is way up but the violence permit holders were supposed to perpetuate is almost entirely nonexistent:

A gun safety instructor, shown in 2012, for a course that is required to have a concealed carry permit in Minnesota. A record 200,000 Minnesotans now have permits to carry handguns.

A record 200,000 Minnesotans now have permits to carry handguns, an increasingly diverse group that includes two men who recently made split-second, life-altering decisions to fire their weapons.

[…]

Opponents had feared that the law would lead to a surge in shootings and gun deaths. But Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data show that fatalities involving permit holders are rare. In the past five years, there have been five deadly or nonlethal instances of justifiable use of a firearm by permit holders.

How can this be? Simple. Most people want to carry a firearm for self-defense, not to perpetuate violence. When it comes to carrying a firearm in Minnesota there are two options: legal or illegal. Carrying a gun illegally requires nothing more than carrying a gun but carrying a gun legally requires spending money and jumping through hoops. To legally carry a gun in Minnesota you have to take a class, apply for a permit, and hand your local Sheriff a payoff (often called a fee). Permit holders jump through those hoops because they want to avoid being harassed by the police. For that same reason most permit holders go out of their way to avoid violent situations.

What we have here in Minnesota are 200,000 people who want a means to defend themselves without worrying about police harassment.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 25th, 2015 at 10:30 am