Author Archives: Jeremy

TSA Blog Leads to Policy Change

I talked last week about how the TSA has opened a blog and allowed the public en masse to attack them outright through comments blasting them for all their varied foibles.

Well it turns out that it's working well! The TSA has changed a policy that at least one airport put into effect that required passengers to remove all their electronics. It seems that the TSA didn't know it was happened, but stopped the practice.

Monster Cables, Monster Scam

If you didn't know this already, stores make massive profits on cables and connectors. Most of these cost anywhere from 3 to 60 dollars for the store, but are sold from 19.99 to 179.99 or more!

There's just no way to get a good deal on cables from a regular retail outlet so buy them from an online outlet instead.

For a bonus, head over to the Consumerist for a full price sheet from Radio Shack showing their cost versus your cost on their stock of Monster brand cables.

Sample:

Item | Retail Price | Wholesale Price | Profit Margin

MONSTER 19FT HDMI-DVI | $179.99 | $99.94 | $80.05
MONSTER 8M L 26.24' | $137.99 | $73.49 | $64.5
MONSTER 19FT HDMI-HDMI CA | $169.99 | $105.5 | $64.49
"MONSTER 21' STRAIGHT 1/4""" | $149.99 | $88.87 | $61.12
MONSTER HTS 950 | $149.99 | $90.89 | $59.1
MONSTER SLVR FLAT MNT-37I | $149.99 | $91.44 | $58.55
MONSTER 16FT DVI-DVI CABL | $149.99 | $93.08 | $56.91
MONSTER 13FT HDMI-DVI CAB | $149.99 | $93.08 | $56.91
MONSTER 6M L 19.68' – COM | $114.99 | $61.24 | $53.75
MONSTER 8' DIGITAL FIBER | $114.99 | $61.24 | $53.75

Bush Sneakily Snakes his Way Around a New Law

The new law requiring better compliance with the Freedom of Information Act has been effectivly neutered by a sneaky move from Bush.

"Bush proposed shifting a newly created ombudsman's position from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice. Because the ombudsman would be the chief monitor of compliance with the new law, that move is akin to killing the critical function, some members of Congress and watchdog groups say."

"Justice represents the agencies when they're sued over FOIA . . . It doesn't make a lot of sense for them to be the mediator,"

Yeah America.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

eBay To Eliminate Negative Feedback

In what is perhaps the dumbest move eBay has ever made, they are planning to eliminate the ability to leave negative or neutral feedback. Positive feedback is already pointless with a horde of robotic responses left only for bragging rights:

AAAAA+++++ Buyer!
Would Buy again!
Fast Shipping. Excellent Seller!

What does any of this mean? NOTHING. If you want the real scoop, it used to be only the negative feedback that would give it to you. Besides, if you DO get scammed, it's not like eBay will do anything about it so the negative feedback was the only thing that would protect you.

Diebold Universal Keys Easily Duplicated

So not only was Diebold dumb enough to use a universal key for all their voting machines, and not only did they sell those keys off their website (though supposedly only to "authorized people" as if we could trust them to handle who's authorized or not), but they posted a picture of the keys on the Internet which allowed at least one researcher to make a perfect working copy at home with a key blank bought from the store and a file.

This story came to light a while ago, but there's been some updates such as:

In a classic Diebold bury-the-evidence move, they've now replaced the entire page in their online store featuring the mechanical, copyable key with a page featuring a "Smart Card, Security Key Card." A digital key card. Same link, different key entirely. Which can only be done, given the database they use for their online store, quite deliberately in order to try to fool folks again. Par for the course. And, of course, shameless.

Whee.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Super Tuesday Meet E-Voting Kryptonite

Several states are still using e-voting despite the disastrous security they provide. Because of that, voting advocacy groups have labeled six of the 24 states in the primary as being high risk for miscounts due to tampering or malfunction. Best of all, these miscounts would be undetectable due to lack of a paper record for audit or recount.

How after all this time can they still allow these dumb things? Even Maryland has seen the light and removed e-voting!

FTC Continues to Be Useless

According to their annual report to congress, the Federal Trade Commission recieved over 69,000 complaints that debt collectors were violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the law that prevents them from harassing you or using dirty tactics to try and get you to pay a debt). In response, the FTC filed against 3 debt collectors.

Thanks FTC!

The TSA Launches a Public Relations Blog

In what appears to be an attempt to counter the black hole that is their reputation, the TSA has launced a blog called "Evolution of Security". Like most things Bushian, it starts out by inflating their viewpoint somehow implying that they are right about everything they do just in the title.

And their tagline:

Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part.

Awwwww… Isn't that nice? Too bad we disagree on how security must evolve. Bruce Schneier has pretty much successfully challenged every major TSA policy, but they refuse to acknowledge him (yes I know he interviewed the head of the TSA, but did he get meaningful answers?).

I wonder how long they'll be able to keep the blog up against the storm of complaints that is so inevitably on the horizon.

(H/T to Ars Technica for the link)

Science May Have Unlocked Human Memory

This is so very cool. I believe memory is the keystone of intelligence and it's what makes your life worthwhile. After all, what is the point of living if you can't remember anything?

The man, who has not been identified, was also tested on his ability to learn lists of paired objects. After three weeks of continuous hypothalamic stimulation, his performance on two learning tests was significantly improved. He was also much more likely to remember a list of unrelated paired objects with the electrodes turned on than when turned off.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

Scammers Poised and Ready for Stimulus Package

It should be no surprise to anyone that enterprising scumbags everywhere are using the hopes of the economic stimulus package to scam people out of their information.

"They're calling people on the phone and asking for their personal information, and the people are thinking they're going to get some money quicker than they normally would," Special Agent Jeff Lanza, spokesman with the FBI Bureau in Kansas City, told WDAF-TV.

Remember simple safety: don't give out information over the phone especially to someone who calls you.

Hackers Declare War on Scientology

Video here
Picture propaganda here

Personally, I worry about power like that turned in the wrong direction, but while it's only focused on corrupt organizations, I have ho qualm.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

Some links that have surfaced about the nasty things Scientolgoy teaches and does:
Dianetics Processing for Children
Scientology Manual
I Escaped Scientology
More at:
Digg.com

Make the Unpopular Choice with The Economic Stimulus Money

I'm putting out the call for all people who get money unexpectedly to take the unpopular route and use it to pay down some debt rather than spend it. The very idea that you are in a position to spend new money while you're in debt at all is why Americans and America is in so much trouble right now.

Embrace the philosophy of a total-money-makeover and work towards it. Even if it violates the implanted logic that businesses and the credit industry have forced upon you, work your way out of debt before starting new ones and learn to live debt free.

Now realistically, I will probably spend some of the money on something nice like going out to dinner or a small gift for my wife. Psychologically, many of us will need to spend at least some of the money, but I'm OK with doing that if you still apply the vast majority to outstanding debts.