About admin (Royce)

IT. Cigars. Tech. Rants. Howdy!

TBT: Former President Jimmy Carter at SFA State University – Great Beginning Lecture Series – 1989

Let’s get this blog restarted – throwback Thursday time!

Back in 1989, former President Jimmy Carter came to visit Stephen F. Austin State University as part of the “Great Beginning” lecture series. I had just started as a reporter for “The Pine Log” university newspaper and, even though I was just a “fish”, got the OK to attend the lecture with chief photographer, Robert Seale.

Unfortunately I didn’t get cleared in time to interview former President Carter, but somewhere in the 14-chest pile are my notes, recording of the lecture, and the story I wrote up for The Pine Log. As soon as I find those, I’ll add them to this post.

I took a few photos of the event with my single-focus 35mm camera, but I didn’t know I had loaded it with Black and White film until they were developed.

First, the walk in…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 01

Former President Carter arriving on stage (and Robert in the foreground with his professional 35mm camera)…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 02

Former President Jimmy Carter waving to the audience, Robert getting his photo, and a “no, really, I’m not secret service” agent taking a photo of everyone taking a photo…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 03

A photo I took of the audience in attendance…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 04

The SFA President introducing former President Jimmy Carter (my apologies but I do not recall who the SFA President was at the time)…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 05

Former President Jimmy Carter starting his speech…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 06

Former President Jimmy Carter continuing his speech…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 07

Former President Jimmy Carter continuing his speech (I couldn’t to anything about that scratch on the negative)…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 08

Former President Jimmy Carter continuing his speech. (I remember he took the time to pause and answer questions from the audience.)…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 09

The SFA President starting his closing remarks…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 10

Former President Carter taking a few more questions at the end…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 11

The SFA President’s thanks and farewell…

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 12

…and the final handshake and official close of speech.

President Jimmy Carter at SFA – Great Beginning Lecture Series 1989 – 13


“Don’t Mess With Texas” wants a new jingle

A press release from the Texas Department of Transportation announced the state is looking for two new versions of the (in)famous “Don’t Mess With Texas” jingle – one in English, and one in Spanish.

In addition to the winning jingles playing constantly on TV spots across Texas, the winners will also get a Gibson Guitar “up to a MAP value of $2,400” and perform at an iHeart radio station music lounge.

Contestants can head to the official contest website to submit their own :30 second version of “Don’t Mess With Texas”.

Here’s a bullet point list of the main criteria for the :30 second spot…

  • Entrants must be a legal resident of Texas and 18 years of age or older
  • Entry submission should be a recording of the Band/Musician performing an original song and cannot include a cover or derivative material of any kind.
  • Recording must include the following words/phrases: (A) “Don’t mess with Texas” and (B) An anti-littering message
  • Submission video MUST be an original performance video.
  • Song/Video can be recorded in English or Spanish
  • No pre-recorded or edited audio is allowed.
  • Video must show full band/musician
  • Video shall include vocals and may not exceed :30 seconds.
  • Video must be completely ORIGINAL and cannot include cover, copyrighted or derivative material of any kind.
  • Video must be submitted via YouTube link or direct upload on the registration page.
  • Bands/musician may submit one (1) audition entry during the Entry Period. Multiple entries are not allowed;
  • Band/Musician contact shall be a member of Band/musician and must be the registered subscriber of the email account from which the entry is made.
  • Band/Musician must not be obligated to or bound by any sort of recording contracts or agreements with a record label.
  • Band/Musician must provide their own equipment at any of the competitions listed below.

The contest ends on 11:59:59 p.m. (central time) on October 10, 2018, but then public voting begins on October 11, 2018 for “all valid entries”. Public voting will end on October 25, 2018 at 11:59:59 PM (central time).

After the final voting is complete, “the top three submissions with the absolute highest vote count will be judged to determine two winners.” On or about October 31, 2018, a panel of judges will pick two winners from the selected top three submissions.

The final contest winners will be announced on November 2, 2018.

So what’s the judging criteria?

  • Innovation – 10%
  • Creativity – 20%
  • Memorable Tune / Song – 15%
  • Technical Skill – 15%
  • Brand Messaging – 20%
  • Overall Presentation – 20%

Ten randomly selected voters during this campaign will also receive a gift card from Starbucks or Target valued at $25 each.

The official rules are here (PDF warning).

Aaaand here’s the official announcement…


The search is on for new musical talent to educate Texans about litter prevention

AUSTIN – For more than 30 years, the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign has forged partnerships with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Strait, Willie Nelson, LeAnn Rimes and Grupo Fantasma to share its important message. Now the search is on for a new amateur musical talent to represent the iconic litter-prevention campaign. The “Don’t mess with Texas” Song Search Contest invites undiscovered Texans to compose an original 30-second song, incorporating the campaign’s anti-litter message. The entries, submitted via video, will be collected online where the public will have the opportunity to vote on their favorites.

“Music has been a part of the ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ campaign from the beginning,” said Jeff Austin III, Texas Transportation Commissioner. “We’re excited to expand on this legacy by giving Texans of every walk of life a chance to add their voice to the campaign and share in a fun way how we all have a part to play in keeping our state clean and beautiful.”

The ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ Song Search Contest is presented in partnership with iHeart and Gibson Brands. Country superstars, the Randy Rogers Band, and Latin pop and norteño stars, Las Fenix, who are both featured in this year’s “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign, are also lending their time and talent to help discover the campaign’s newest performer.

The “Don’t mess with Texas” Song Search Contest is open to all Texas residents, ages 18 and above, and runs through October 2018. Contest rules can be found at Dontmesswithtexas.org. At the end of the public voting period, two winners will be selected, one English and one Spanish, and awarded a prize package donated by Gibson Brands and iHeart that includes a 2018 Gibson Guitar, the opportunity to appear in a future “Don’t mess with Texas” TV spot with the Randy Rogers Band and Las Fenix, and a performance at an iHeart Live Music Lounge. The Song Search Contest winners will join the ranks of other notable performers featured in the “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign throughout the years.

“Don’t mess with Texas” has been educating Texans about litter prevention since 1986. The campaign is the signature initiative for TxDOT’s litter-prevention initiatives which include Adopt-a-Highway, a grassroots partnership with Keep Texas Beautiful, and the community outreach and cleanup event — the “Don’t Mess with Texas” Trash-Off. For additional information on “Don’t mess with Texas,” visit Dontmesswithtexas.org.

A new bill to address “malicious” drones is headed to congress

A new article on GCN says the White House has sent a bill directly to congress that “would allow the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to use technology to detect, disrupt communications, seize or take down drones deemed to pose a malicious threat” as they are “concerned about drones being used for terrorism and more general criminal activity”.

While this sounds like the beginnings of a common-sense law on the surface, there’s one paragraph that just might warrant a red flag.

“The legislation would effectively set up a temporary restricted airspace around these “sensitive missions” and require DHS and DOJ to notify unmanned aerial systems operators of the temporary restriction.”

A big flag. On fire.

So in other words, the White House would like a create a law that sends out occasional warnings to drone pilots along the lines of “whatever you drone people do, don’t fly over here. Not right here at these specific GPS coordinates. And definitely not from this time all the way to this time. And don’t forget to tune in to this public channel for future updates.”

Establishing a permanently restricted airspace is one thing. Creating a temporarily restricted airspace and advertising it to the public at large is just screaming for attention.

This law might have had a slim chance of working if drones were already regulated and a system was in place to tie drones and their operators together, but right now, drones are still in their “wild wild west” phase.

On a related note, even though the Wright brothers’ plane first took flight in 1903, it wasn’t until 1927 that the first federal pilot license was issued.

The GCN article on the proposed “don’t look in this direction” drone bill is here.

It looks like an emergency state election is coming for Texas

A few days ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbot issued a “request for opinion” to Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton concerning suspending state election laws and calling for an emergency special election in order to replace representative Blake Farenthold.

In a reply Monday morning, State Attorney General Ken Paxton said the governor does have the power to suspend state election laws in the case of an emergency, and “if the Governor determines the situation in Congressional District 27 constitutes an emergency warranting a special election before November 6, 2018, a court would likely conclude that section 41.0011 of the Election Code authorizes calling an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in that district.”

In other words, Texas’ 27th Congressional District is now just a few weeks away from a special election that will take place outside the standard state election laws.

You can download the reply from State Attorney General Ken Paxton here, or you can read the content of the reply below.

April 23, 2018

The Honorable Greg Abbott
Governor of Texas
Post Office Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Opinion No. KP-0191

Re: Whether the emergency powers under section 418.016 of the Government Code authorize the Governor to suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election (RQ-0223-KP)

Dear Governor Abbott:

You request an opinion regarding whether the Governor’s emergency powers authorize you to suspend relevant state election laws and call an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in Congressional District 27, which occurred due to former-Representative Blake Farenthold’s recent resignation.1 Under Texas law, an “unexpired term in the office of United States representative may be filled only by a special election.” TEX. ELEC. CODE § 204.021. Representative Farenthold was elected for the 2017-2018 term, but you tell us he.notified you of his resignation on April 8, 2018, leaving a vacancy in that office either until filled by special election or until the new term begins in January 2019. Request Letter at 1. Important to your request, all counties within Congressional District 27 remain under a disaster declaration as they continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey. While you desire “to call a special election as soon as is legally possible” to ensure federal representation for the constituents of that district, multiple state and federal laws restrict the timing of a special election to fill a vacancy for that office. Id. at 1.

I. State and Federal Laws Addressing the Timing of a Special Election for Congressional District 27

The Election Code generally provides that “a special election shall be held on the first uniform election date occurring on or after the 36th day after the date the election is ordered.” TEX. ELEC. CODE§ 203.004(a); see also id. §§ 204.021 (explaining that the procedures for a special election to fill a vacancy for a United States representative are the same “a.s provided by Chapter 203 for the legislature”), 201.052 (establishing the general date of election for a special election to fill a vacancy as the first authorized uniform election date). Under this provision, the first uniform election date available for the special election is November 6, 2018. See id. § 41.001(a)(3) (listing the uniform election dates for general or special elections, which includes “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November”).

Recognizing some special elections may need to occur before the next uniform election date, the Legislature authorized the Governor to call a special election earlier in certain circumstances. Id. § 41.00ll(a). When the Governor “determines that an emergency warrants holding a special election before the appropriate uniform election date, the election may be held on an earlier nonuniform date.”2 Id. Section 203.004 provides that an emergency election to fill a vacancy “shall be held on a Tuesday or Saturday occurring on or after the 36th day and before the 50th day after the date the election is ordered.” Id. § 203.004(b). Read in isolation, this provision suggests that the Governor could call a special election as early as Tuesday, May 29, 2018, thirty-six days from today; however, other laws prevent the Governor from calling an election so early.

The date for a special election must also account for the statutorily-required filing period for candidates to apply for a place on the ballot. Section 201.054 ofthe Election Code authorizes two separate candidate filing periods, the first for an election ordered at least 70 days in advance, and the second for an election ordered at least 46 days in advance:

[A] candidate’s application for a place on a special election ballot must be filed not later than:

(1) 5 p.m. of the 62nd day before election day, if election day is on or after the 70th day after the date the election is ordered; or

(2) 5 p.m. of the 40th day before election day, if election day is on or after the 46th day and before the 70th day after the date the election is ordered.

Id. § 201.054(a). Thus, this section prevents the Governor from calling a special election earlier than 46 days from the day the election is called.

Furthermore, the special election date must comply with federal election law, including the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (“Act”). See generally 52 U.S.C. § 20301- 20311. That Act, “aimed at ending the widespread disenfranchisement of military voters stationed overseas,” requires states to adopt certain measures when administering federal elections to accommodate military voters and other citizens residing overseas. United States v. Alabama, 778 F.3d 926, 928 (11th Cir.2015). Relevant to your question, states must generally “transmit a validly requested absentee ballot to an absent uniformed services voter or overseas voter” at least 45 days before an election for federal office.3 52 U.S.C. § 20302(a)(8)(A); see also TEX. ELEC. CODE § 114.007(a) (requiring that ballots be mailed to certain United States citizens dwelling outside the United States “as provided by” the Act). Before a state can transmit the absentee ballots, it must print them. And before it can print them, it must know which candidates to include on the ballots, meaning it could not print ballots until after the end of the filing period. Considering the statutorily-required filing period discussed above alongside the Act, if ail election were called today, the Governor could not set a date for that election before Tuesday, July 3, 2018, at the earliest.4 That date does not fall between the 36th and 50th day window required under section 203.004(b) to call a special election to fill a vacancy in Congress. See TEX. ELEC. CODE § 203.004(b). Thus, when read together, these federal and state election laws pose significant obstacles to holding an expeditious emergency election to fill the current vacancy in Congressional District 27.5

II. The Governor’s Emergency Authority to Suspend Certain State Laws to Manage a Disaster

Given these significant legal restrictions on the dates for calling a special election, you ask whether you may utilize your emergency authority “to suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election.” Request Letter at 2. As Governor, you possess “extremely broad powers to declare disaster emergencies and to deal with them.” Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. MW-140 (1980) at 1. Pursuant to this authority, you issued a disaster proclamation in August of last year for the counties impacted by Hurricane Harvey.6 Recognizing that “due to the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, a state of disaster continues to exist in those same counties,” your disaster declaration remains and continues to cover those counties.7 That disaster declaration embraces each of the counties.located in Congressional District 27.8

In managing a disaster, you possess express authority to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules of a state agency if strict compliance with the provisions, orders, or rules would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster.” TEX. Gov’T CODE§ 418.016(a). The state statutes discussed above prescribe deadlines and timing requirements for calling a special election and are therefore regulatory statutes that prescribe “the procedures for conduct of state business.” Id. To the extent that the procedures in those portions of the Election Code “prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action” in coping with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Legislature authorized you to temporarily suspend those provisions. Id.

The Legislature also provided you express authority to call a special election on a nonuniform election date when an emergency so warrants. TEX. ELEC. CODE § 41.0011 (a). 9 You acknowledge that many of the residents of Congressional District 27 “are still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey.” Request Letter at 1. And you explain that because “so many of the hurricane relief efforts depend on action at the federal level, it is all the more important that the voters of District 27” have congressional representation as soon as possible. Id. If you determine the situation in Congressional District 27 constitutes an emergency that warrants holding a special election before November 6, 2018, a court would likely conclude that section 41.0011 authorizes calling an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in that district.


To the extent that the special election procedures established in the Election Code prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, section 418.016(a) of the Government Code authorizes the Governor to suspend those provisions.

If the Governor determines the situation in Congressional District 27 constitutes an emergency warranting a special election before November 6, 2018, a court would likely conclude that section 41.0011 of the Election Code authorizes calling an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in that district.

Very truly yours,
Attorney General of Texas

First Assistant Attorney General

Deputy First Assistant Attorney General

Chair, Opinion Committee


1 See Letter from Honorable Greg Abbott, Governor of Tex., to Honorable Ken Paxton, Tex. Att’y Gen. at 1- 2 (Apr. 19, 2018), https://texasattorneygerieral.gov/opinion/requests-for-opinion-rqs (“Request Letter”).

2 “The proclamation or order for an emergency election under this section must include a statement identifying the nature of the emergency.” TEX. ELEC. CODE§ 41.001 l(c).

3 A hardship exemption exists to waive this 45-day requirement in certain circumstances, but none of those circumstances appear to apply here. See 52 U.S.C. § 20302(g)(2)(B). Even if the exemption were available, a state must request the waiver “not later than 90 days before the election for Federal office,” making the waiver impractical in this situation. Id. § 20302(g)(3)(A).

4 A special election on this date would provide 17 days for the printing and mailing of absentee ballots between the end of the candidate filing period and the time at which absentee ballots must be mailed, 45 days before the election. We have no information to determine whether 17 days provides sufficient time to perform these functions, and the authorities performing those functions are in the best position to advise on the actual time required.

5 As you also note, at whichever date the initial special election is called to fill this vacancy, it may not result in immediate representation for the district. See Request Letter at 1. “To be elected in a special election for an unexpired term, a candidate must receive a majority of the total number of votes received by all candidates for the unexpired term.” TEX. ELEC. CODE§ 203.003. Thus, depending on the number of candidates, a runoff election could be necessary to fill the office.

6 0n August 23, 2017, you issued a disaster proclamation for 30 counties in anticipation of the storm damage from Tropical Depression Harvey. See https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/Disaster-Proclamation-lssued-For-30-Texas-Counties-in-Anticipation-Of-Tropical-Depression-Harvey-Making-Landfall. On August 27, 2017, you added other counties to that proclamation. See https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/govemor-abbott-adds-additional-counties-for-hurricane-harvey-disaster-decl; see also TEX. GOV’T CODE § 418.014(a) (authorizing the Governor to declare a disaster).

7 See https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-greg-abbott-again-declares-disaster-proclamation-extension-for-texas-counties-impacted-by-hurricane-Harvey.

8 Congressional District 27 includes Aransas, Calhoun, Jackson, Lavaca, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, Victoria, and Wharton counties and some parts of Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, and San Patricio counties. See http://www.tic.state.tx.us/redist/pdf/congress/map.pdf.

9 The Legislature enacted section 41.0011 in 1991. Act o f May 27, 1991, 72d Leg., R.S., ch. 389, § 2, 1991 Tex. Gen. Laws 1472, 1473. Prior to that enactment, one intermediate court addressed the Governor’s authority to use his emergency powers to postpone a special election.. See Salmon v. Lamb, 616 S.W.2d 296, 298 (Tex. Civ. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1981, no writ). While affirming that authority, the court held that the Governor was limited to postponing only to the next available date prescribed in the Election Code. Id. (voiding an election held on a date other than the mandatory dates on which special elections of the type in issue must be held). Because the subsequently enacted section 41.0011 authorizes the Governor to call an emergency special election on a nonuniform election date, a court would likely distinguish that case from the situation here.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants to “suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election” due to rep. Farenthold’s resignation

In a request for opinion to Texas Attorney General Paxton last night, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that due to the resignation of representative Blake Farenthold of Texas’ 27th Congressional District, “it is imperative to restore representation for the people of that district as quickly as possible”, and in order to do so, state election laws must be suspended and an emergency special election needs to take place.

Representative Blake Farenthold resigned last Friday, before the House Ethics Committee could rule on its’ investigation on whether he had “sexually harassed members of his staff, used official money for campaign purposes and lied in previous testimony to the committee.”

Representative Farenthold had also “promised to repay an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement funded by taxpayers” but “will not complete the final eight months of his term.”

The two main questions Texas Attorney General Paxton have to answer are…

  1. If the Texas emergency powers authorize Governor Greg Abbott to suspend state election laws and order an emergency special election.
  2. If this specific situation (Representative Blake Farenthold’s resignation and the continuing representation of Texas’ 27th Congressional District) qualifies as an emergency.

The official Request for Opinion PDF is here.

The content of the PDF follows…

April 19, 2018

The Honorable Ken Paxton Attorney General of Texas

Attn: Opinion Committee P.O. Box 12548

Austin, Texas 78711-2548

Re: AG Opinion Request CD27

Dear Attorney General Paxton:

On April 8, 2018, Representative Blake Farenthold notified me of his resignation as the representative of Texas’ 27th Congressional District. It is imperative to restore representation for the people of that district as quickly as possible. I am acutely concerned about this issue because many of the district’s residents are still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. Indeed, all 13 of the counties in District 27 are still covered by my most recent disaster declaration for the area devastated by the hurricane. Because so many of the hurricane relief efforts depend on action at the federal level, it is all the more important that the voters of District 27 have an effective voice in Washington, D.C., at the earliest possible opportunity. That will require me to call a special election as soon as is legally possible.

Generally, a special election must be held on the first uniform election date occurring on or after the 36th day after the date the election is ordered. See Tex. Elec. Code § 203.004. The only uniform election date left in 2018 that meets that statutory threshold is November 6, which is not soon enough. Id.§ 41.001 (a). In cases of emergency, the governor is authorized to order a special election to be held before the appropriate uniform election date; but in this instance, that authority is rendered ineffective by requirements found in other state and federal laws. See id. §§ 201.054(a) (filing deadlines), 203.004 (b) (emergency election time frame), 203.012 (canvassing deadlines); 52 U.S.C. § 20302 (a)(8)(A) (deadline to transmit absentee ballots to uniformed services or overseas voters). It is impossible to order an election, allow candidates to file, print ballots, mail them in accordance with federal law, and hold an emergency election within the statutorily prescribed 50-day window. Complicating the issue is that if an emergency election for District 27 results in a runoff election, the date for the runoff election cannot be sooner than the 70th day after the final canvas of the emergency election. See Tex. Elec. Code § 2.025(d). I am concerned that the combination of state and federal law makes it practically impossible to hold an emergency special election and to replace Representative Farenthold before the end of September.

As governor, I have been given “extremely broad powers to declare disaster emergencies and to deal with them.” Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. MW-140 (1980) (analyzing Disaster Act of 1975). Among the powers conferred on me is the authority to suspend certain statutory provisions if strict compliance with those provisions would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster. Tex. Gov’t Code § 418.016. As noted above, I believe that a prolonged vacancy in this congressional seat will impede state and federal efforts in coping with the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Therefore, my question is:

May I utilize my authority under section 418.016 of the Government Code to suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election?

Due to the time-sensitive nature of this request and the emergency disaster recovery efforts in District 27, I respectfully request your opinion as soon as possible. Thank you for your assistance with this important matter.


Greg Abbott


Amazon Echo devices keep 60 seconds of recordings. The big question – is this in perpetuity?

For several years, Amazon had been telling the tech world their Echo home devices don’t “…actually do anything with your voice until you say their “wake word,” which is usually just … ‘Alexa’”

There was a big story that threatened to poke a hole in that narrative. Specifically, that an Amazon echo device’s recordings were needed to solve a murder case.

Amazon initially pushed back against releasing the recorded data, claiming “the First Amendment’s free speech protection applies to information gathered and sent by the device”, but eventually agreed to release the data after “after the user… consented to the disclosure”. The murder case was eventually dismissed, but there was never any explicit information on how much data Amazon handed over to the police regarding the investigation or what the data entailed.

The core issue remains. How exactly would an Echo device be useful in solving a murder case if it remains “off” until it is activated by the “wake word”? Why would the police want an Echo’s supposedly limited recordings?

A new finding in a very interesting tweet from Matteo ( @geminiimatt ) a few days ago might shed some light on that discrepancy.

On examining the extracted data from an Amazon Echo device…

Amazon Echo devices keep 60 seconds of recording and stores it “in the cloud”.

In their Alexa Terms of Use page, section 1.3 states very clearly that “Amazon processes and retains your Alexa Interactions, such as your voice inputs, music playlists, and your Alexa to-do and shopping lists, in the cloud to provide and improve our services.”

What is not stated at all is the length of retention or what happens to the data once it arrives “in the cloud”.

With this new finding that Echo devices keep 60 seconds of recording, and combined with Amazon’s admission they do “retain” Alexa interactions, I think it is time to ask a few questions.

Off the top of my head…

  1. Is this data stored in perpetuity?
  2. Is there any way for any person to review the data sent from an Echo device?
  3. Who has authority to review data sent from an Echo device?
  4. Is there a backup of this data?
  5. Is this data “mined”?
  6. How is this data secured?
  7. Is this data shared with any other party outside of Amazon?

Here’s my “worst case” thinking. Amazon pulls 60 seconds from an Echo device and uploads it to the cloud. Then “deletes” the previous 60 seconds on the local device and starts a new 60 second pull. The data uploaded from the local Echo device to the Amazon servers is never deleted on the Amazon servers. The data is stored forever, stamped by device name, location, wifi username and password, and sqlllite database contents. Every 60 seconds on every Echo device.

If this isn’t the case, if Echo devices really do just wait for the “wake word” and the findings by the community and the beliefs of the police are in error, a clear and detailed statement from Amazon on the Echo’s data retention would go a long way.

Personally, I’m still wondering why Amazon Dash buttons have embedded microphones.

Amazon is deleting uploads to their music storage service on April 30th

Not an April fools post. Late last week, Amazon announced they are “retiring” their online music storage service.

Up until this email, Amazon allowed users to upload up to 250 songs to their “personal cloud library” for streaming or downloading. For some reason, Amazon has decided to kill this feature on April 30th of this month.

Customers who uploaded music to their Amazon services have until April 30th to login to their Amazon music page, navigate to their settings page, and select KEEP MY SONGS.

Here is a copy of the email I received from Amazon…


Amazon Music is retiring the Music Storage service, which allows customers to upload and store up to 250 songs in a personal cloud library. Our records indicate you have uploaded one or more songs through your Amazon account in the past.

To keep, download, and play your uploaded songs at no extra cost, simply open a web browser, go to your Music Settings and click the “Keep my songs” button to direct us to save your music to the cloud. Otherwise your uploaded songs will be removed from your library on April 30, 2018.

Your Amazon Music digital purchases will continue to remain securely stored for playback and download — no further action is required to retain those. These changes will not impact your ability to stream Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited.

The NBC Store may have just had their email server compromised

One of the benefits to having my own domain is the ability to create as many custom email addresses as I want. When I sign up on a new website, I create a custom email just for that website and redirect it to my “main” email account.

Today, I received a junk email for the email address I set up only for the NBC Store. It is a “amazon delivery” notice with a “confirmation link” that redirects to a website in Spain.

NBC Store scam email
Since I have never used the email address for the NBC Store anywhere else, and since it was sent directly to that alias account I created, I think it is safe to say the NBC Store’s customer email server has been compromised.

If you have an email account with the NBC Store, get ready for a flood of junk mail and malware.

You don’t have to own your own domain to set up a “ghost” email address. Google lets you create something similar with any gmail address!

On the next website that wants you to sign up with your email address, type a + sign after your gmail name and before the @ to make a “ghost” email address that will forward to your main gmail.com address.

For example, if bill.gates@gmail.com wanted to sign up at the NBCSTORE and wanted to use a “ghost” email address, he could just type in bill.gates+NBCSTORE@gmail.com at NBC Store’s website. NBC Store would send their emails to bill.gates+NBCSTORE@gmail.com and Bill would see it in his regular bill.gates@gmail.com inbox as coming from bill.gates+NBCSTORE@gmail.com.

While this takes longer than just putting in a standard email address, I find “ghost” email addresses are invaluable in finding out who sells email addresses (LinkedIn), who keeps them reserved (Apple, Microsoft), and on occasion, who has been hacked.

Kidde recalls over 37 million of their plastic-handle fire extinguishers made from January 1973 to August 2017

In the “yeah, that’s bad” department, Kidde announced a massive recall of their plastic handle fire extinguishers that were manufactured between January 1, 1973 and August 15, 2017 due to failure “to activate during a fire emergency due to clogs”.

On the Occupational Health and Safety website, they say that anywhere from 37 to 40 million Kidde fire extinguishers “may not function properly in an emergency. The recall applies to 134 models of Kidde fire extinguishers manufactured between January 1, 1973, and August 15, 2017, including models that had been previously recalled in March 2009 and February 2015.”

“The recall involves both plastic handle and push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers. The extinguishers can fail to activate during a fire emergency due to clogs or requiring excessive force to discharge. The nozzle also can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard. There have been approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, including a 2014 death in which emergency responders could not get the recalled Kidde fire extinguishers to work in a car fire following a crash.”

There’s a long list of all extinguishers affected by the recall on Kidde’s website and even a grim admission that “there have been approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, including [a] fatality, approximately 16 injuries, including smoke inhalation and minor burns, and approximately 91 reports of property damage” with those affected models.

Most people I know have a Kidde fire extinguisher since they’re sold nationwide at just about every store there is, but Kidde stated on their website these defective fire extinguishers were also bundled “with commercial trucks, recreational vehicles, personal watercraft and boats.”

If you find that you have one of their fire extinguishers, check out the recall list or call Kidde toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and/or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday to get yours replaced ASAP.

QNAP NAS users: QFinder update now collects usage information

If you use QFinder or QFinder Pro as part of your QNAP NAS management, the
most recent version of the app (QNAP Qfinder Pro 6.3.0) now collects information on your NAS usage.

You can click CANCEL and not OK at the legalese screen after the software installs, but it isn’t immediately apparent if this exempts you from the new TOS or is just a “close window” action.

Following is the “Consent to User Information Collection” that appears after the application updates. (The concerning parts I placed in bold.)

Consent to User Information Collection

Thank you for using QNAP Systems, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as the “Company”) products. To provide a better user experience, the Company will collect usage-related information when you use Qfinder Pro (hereinafter referred to as the “Product”), as detailed below:


User information and user behavior helps the Company to better understand user habits and preferences. The Company collects such information to improve the Product and services to meet the needs of users and to improve the overall service quality.

Information Collected

The information collected includes (but is not limited to):

Operating system information, device identification codes, country and language settings, computer model, firmware version and other basic information.

App-related information including: version information, update and shutdown time, usage frequency, and usage time.

User preferences: device settings, product configuration, usage time of the application and hardware.

Other relevant but non-personal information.

Use of information

With your agreement, the aforementioned information will be automatically collected and sent back to the Company. The Company will analyze the collected information to identify improvements that can be made to future products and services. The Company has effective mechanisms and procedures to protect the security of the information collected and shall only use the relevant information internally.

The Company hereby disclaims all warranties including express or implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose in connection with this consent or in any manner whatsoever. In addition to the foregoing, the Company shall not be held accountable for any direct, indirect, special, incidental or consequential damages, such as loss of profits, loss of data, equipment use or functional damage, interruption of business and events of a similar nature, regardless prior notice exists for such occurrence or not.