Time Warner ended partnership with Dell’s Sonic Wall

In a big giant bit of ugly news today, our local Time Warner rep informed me that Time Warner corporate is no longer offering Dell Sonic Wall products or services.

If you are in a Time Warner corporate environment and are currently using a Dell Sonic Wall product provided by Time Warner, you should have grandfathered-in support for the time being. HOWEVER, if your existing Sonic Wall goes out or you need to add to your WAN/LAN, your only option now will be to switch to Time Warner’s new Cisco/AdTran services or buy and config your own Sonic Wall.

Nightmare scenario: the corporate Sonic Wall goes out. Time Warner has nothing to drop ship you as a replacement. You will either have to re-configure your entire network through their new Cisco/AdTran services or find an identical Sonic Wall online to clone your previous config to. How long will either scenario take?

If you’re in this boat, contact your Time Warner rep for more details.

California has banned all state-funded travel to Texas

California has banned all state-funded travel to Texas over discriminatory laws in regards to LGBT rights.

Other states included in the ban are Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

In an article on Government Technology, there is a growing concern on how this ban will affect the partnerships California has with these states in addition to how (and if) the ban will affect sporting events and what possible retaliatory actions  will come from the states currently under the ban.

In the GT article, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was quoted as saying “Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights. Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st century.”

“According to the press release: “AB 1887 prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states with laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or against same-sex couples or their families… This restriction applies to state agencies, departments, boards, authorities and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority or commission of the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California and the California State University.””

While California is no stranger to asserting its’ beliefs through the application of trade law, things will become complex very quickly if the banned states petition to the current federal administration. Unless this is handled with tact and measured diplomacy, this could be the spark that ignites a nationwide inter-state trade war.

New research shows 3D through-wall imaging using only two drones and Wi-Fi

This should get the tinfofil hat brigade nice and riled up. New research from the University of California Santa Barbara has shown it is possible to make a “high-resolution 3D through-wall imaging of completely unknown areas” using only basic Wi-Fi signals and two drones.

The concept is pretty straightforward but the tech behind it is fairly complex. One drone acts as the Wi-Fi broadcaster, and the other drone “reads” the signals and maps out the interior. Both drones follow multiple paths around the area until a satisfactory image is created.

The idea is to use this tech for “emergency response, archaeological discovery, and structural monitoring”.

The link to the video showing the drones in action, the tech involved, and article is on the TechTV site here

Crash test video shows how “heavy” older vehicles fare against modern cars

While temporarily lost in the internet rabbit hole today, I found a video that shows how a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air fared against a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu in a front offset crash.

If you know anyone who still thinks classic cars are “more secure” because they are “heavier” then their modern counterparts, just send them this link…

 

Notegraphy shutting down web services by June 30th

Notegraphy announced in a press release that as a result of “overhauling their technology platforms”, the web version of Notegraphy will be discontinued on June 30th.

If you have anything on Notegraphy you want to keep before the June 30th purge, you will need to…

  1. Login to www.notegraphy.com with your username and password
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Select Backup my notes
  4. Check your email for the link to download your notes to your PC or Mac

The company has a new app they are pushing (of course!), but to delete all of their user’s works in Notegraphy instead of automatically migrating them to the new app is a boneheaded executive decision. After all, if they are willing to eviscerate Notegraphy with one week’s notice and not offer a full migration path to its’ supposed successor, what’s to stop them from doing the same with any of their future products?

Congress’ basic guidelines for automated vehicles miss the potential problems

In a recent article on Government Tech’s website, Congress announced they have already come up with six basic guidelines to regulate the future of autonomous vehicles.

The six legislative principles that have been defined are…

  • Prioritize safety
  • Promote continued innovation and reduce existing roadblocks
  • Remain tech neutral
  • Reinforce separate federal and state roles
  • Strengthen cybersecurity
  • Educate the public to encourage responsible adoption of self-driving vehicles

While the government is starting off some very generic principles to regulate the industry and have some other concerns they are starting to look into, I see a few very significant problems that must be addressed before fully autonomous vehicles become the nationwide standard.

  1. Since non-automated vehicles as stated in the article are already responsible for “94 percent of crashes” due to “human error or decision”, ownership of a non-connected vehicle will eventually be vilified (if not seen as an outright criminal liability). This issue may play out through a heavy “tax” and/or insurance levy on those individuals who wish to retain their non-automated vehicles, or an outright ban on the manufacture of “human driven” vehicles after a certain date. Will automated vehicles and “human driven” vehicles be allowed to co-exist? Or will there be a mandatory phase-out period in the coming decade?
  2. Navigating any city using an outdated GPS system is already a problem with “human driven” vehicles. What will happen if an automated vehicle is allowed to operate with an outdated GPS system? To avoid a potentially lethal outcome, I expect the government to create an oversight agency to mandate all autonomous vehicles have the most recent firmware and software updates at specific intervals. This may play out through updates as infrequently as every “state inspection”, or be more strict via mandatory updates at every refueling (with the option to penalize or completely restrict owners who continue to use a vehicle with outdated software). This, by proxy, also brings up the issue of standardization of GPS systems. While the government has so far been hesitant to declare a standard for automated vehicles to use, this could soon be a pressing safety issue that will not wait for a consumer verdict.
  3. When automated vehicles can be sent home at any time, as stated in the article, “this could create significantly more vehicle-miles traveled, ultimately causing worse congestion. People could potentially send their car home rather than paying for expensive parking in an urban core.” Cities would lose income on previously reliable parking garage and meter fees and will also have to address the sudden glut of unused parking buildings across their downtown areas. I don’t expect any city to gracefully accept this loss of income, and will instead create toll lanes on previously “free” roads as well as a new universal “miles usage” tax for increased “wear and tear” on the roads. Will the federal government allow this?
  4. When automated vehicles become the majority, what is to stop overreach from non-traffic related issues once vehicles become fully interconnected? If you owe the IRS, a court judgement, have overdue child support payments, or even a late credit card payment, what is to stop a restriction from being placed on a connected vehicle’s use since it will be readily available online? Is driving still a privilege and not a right in the coming era of automated vehicles?
  5. Uber is already a nightmare for city taxi services. What is to stop Uber (or a similar company) from purchasing several automated buses that pick up and drop off passengers at designated areas defined by the users themselves? Instead of losing their bus/subway/transport base (IE: income), I expect a hard push back on Uber-style companies through city-based lawsuits and insurance bribes concerns on the safety of a peer-controlled company with no external oversight.

While self-driving cars sound like a futuristic utopia we might actually see in our lifetimes, once the industry makes it to the “real world”, I think the early winners won’t be the consumers, but the attorneys who will be litigating every step of the way.

How to make a “thread” (or “tweetstorm”) on Twitter

If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you might have noticed more and more people have a topic they want to discuss that takes far more than the 140 character limit per Tweet allowed. When they have a long topic to discuss, they create a “thread” on Twitter you can read all at once.

Here’s an example of a “thread” that was recently posted by Twitter…

Example of a Twitter thread

The way to create a “thread” like the one above was outlined in a recent Twitter Business post.

The process is very simple…

  1. Create a “first” tweet
  2. Reply to your own “first” Tweet
  3. If your @name appears in the Tweet compose field, delete it. The reply you type will nest under your first Tweet automatically.
  4. Continue replying to the newest / most recent Tweet in your thread until your narrative is complete.

That’s it!

For clarification, multiple posts in a row on the same topic are sometimes also referred to as “tweetstorms”, especially if they carry on for awhile.

If you want to create a “tweetstorm” with a numeric tally at the beginning of each tweet so your followers know how long the post will be (EX: A prefix of 1/12, then 2/12, then 3/12, etc…) there’s a freemium web service called WriteRack that will do that for you. You just paste your entire topic to their website (after you authorize WriteRack to access Twitter), and their service will break up your topic and post it for you with the appropriate sequence.

WriteRack’s free version limits you to 15 tweets in a “thread” and does not allow you to post images or space the postings out in a specified timeframe. Their premium service ($19.95 annually) allows for 100 tweets in a “thread” and removes the restrictions from the “free” version.

Be careful with all the other online apps that offer to post threads / tweetstorms for you. Some “need” to update your profile and add followers to your account as well as access your contacts. Choose another service if you see those requirements when connecting the app to Twitter.

SAMHSA’s national report on US behavioral health conditions is now available

SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) just released their report on the prevalence of behavioral health conditions. This report includes the rate of serious mental illness, suicidal thoughts, substance use, underage drinking and the percentages of those who seek treatment for these conditions in the United States.

The report is “one of a series of national and state reports that provide a snapshot of behavioral health in the United States. The reports present a set of substance use and mental health indicators as measured through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), sponsored by SAMHSA. This array of indicators provides a unique overview of the nation’s behavioral health at a point in time as well as a mechanism for tracking change and trends over time.”

The report “is divided into sections based on content areas and age groups. It begins with sections on substance use, mental health, and mental health treatment among youths aged 12 to 17, followed by a section on mental health and mental health service use among adults aged 18 or older. Next are sections on substance use, misuse, use disorders, and treatment among youths and adults.”

Though it is not stated in their introduction, the report also has details on race/ethnicity use in addition to the age range mentioned above.

Note: The report was just published this month, but the information is based on their disclosed 2015 findings.

If you are interested in national behavioral health trends, the report is available for free here.

FOSCAM cameras compromised. Affected models should be disconnected.

In a press release yesterday afternoon, Foscam officially announced their branded cameras manufactured by China-based Shenzhen Foscam have severe security vulnerabilities “which leave users vulnerable to hacks which allow attackers to remotely take-over cameras, live stream, download stored files and even compromise other devices located on the local network.”

Foscam recommends “disconnecting your current Foscam branded cameras from the internet until these issues have been resolved”

The models affected are:

  • Foscam R2
  • Foscam C1
  • Foscam C1 Lite
  • Foscam C2
  • Foscam FI9800
  • Foscam FI9826P
  • Foscam FI9828P
  • Foscam FI9851P
  • Foscam FI9853EP
  • Foscam FI9901EP
  • Foscam FI9903P
  • Foscam FI9928P

“The vulnerabilities affect “Foscam” branded cameras and cameras manufactured by China-based Shenzhen Foscam only. The vulnerabilities DO NOT affect Amcrest or FDT branded cameras which are produced by a separate factory and R&D team led by US-based Amcrest (formerly Foscam US and now Amcrest), which is totally unrelated to China-based Shenzhen Foscam.”

There is a damning report by FSecure [.pdf download] on the exact vulnerabilities found on the affected Foscam cameras. For starters, there’s hidden Telnet functionality, hidden hard-coded credentials for the web user interface, the FTP server account to the cameras have a hard-coded password, and the configuration back-up file is protected by hard-coded credentials. Any one of those is a very bad thing, but for all of those hard-coded backdoors to be on every camera system and on all models coming from one location? “Suspicious” would be a kind word.

Like I ranted about master passwords and again on master backdoors, hardware and software with embedded hard coded and/or universal master passwords are a big problem. Regardless of the original intent of having a master password and/or backdoor, once that “core” password gets out, that product is now fair game for anyone for any purpose anywhere anytime.

Good thing everyone on the internet is kind and rational. Oh, wait, that was just that one day back in 1989. Nevermind.