It’s a thing now. You open an executable file and your data is suddenly held hostage. Even the hackers can’t stop the ticking clock. So you pay the ransom. We are downloading compressed files (we can’t see what they are until we open them) and trusting the hackers who hacked Sony not to do the same thing again, to us. Continue reading
Having scratched my head and stared at my navel publicly elsewhere, I thought I should share what I found whilst scratching here as well. I would like to take a moment to share some observations about what is apparently a sensitive topic. The topic is so sensitive, however, that I feel I must preamble the [censored] [censored] out [censored] lest superior persons and others of highly refined sensibilities take this in the wrong spirit.
Point the first: I would like to express my appreciation for the people who conceived of, put into operation, and continue to maintain both with effort and money, this [well, that] website. Continue reading
The hazard of attempting to keep up with the full spectrum of the news/infotainment/propaganda establishment is that one actually becomes aware of the breadth and depth of the opposition. On any given day, when I click the “All Articles” button in my news reader, the one that spits out articles from over a hundred sources all mixed together without regard to topic or political persuasion, I’m as likely to see lolcats next to the latest advances in science as I am to see liberal politics mixed in with CNN’s feeble attempts at news coverage mixed in with headlines from The Blaze. I’ll be honest, there are times I actually do find valuable information at The Blaze. No end of the spectrum has cornered the market on the full story of the world we live in. So this isn’t necessarily to say that I only look at The Blaze and other sites of its ilk solely for the sake of disparaging them. Continue reading
It’s not Santa Claus vs. the Martians – it’s Santa Claus (sorta) vs. the DEA – which is, come to think of it, almost as nuts…
Sam Staley’s latest book is a Christmas story. It’s not, however, the sort of Christmas story ones hears in homes on Christmas Eve. There are no shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night” or flying reindeer jockeyed by a “right jolly old elf.” Staley’s book is a Christmas story with all the 21st century twists: the North Pole is home to NP Enterprises, a slickly run distribution company with billions in revenues and a 26 year old MIT trained computer geek CEO named Nicole who employs large numbers of talented, intelligent people who happen to have the condition known as – you guessed it – dwarfism; its ability to operate is based on economic funding from a 21st century source – a computer operating system superior to others on the market; and its problems within the narrative come from overzealousness on the part of a government official.
NP Enterprises is a family owned business founded by Nicole’s great grandfather, a Dutchman named Nicholas Klaas, who moved to the Far North and began making toys which he sold to trappers and hunters for their children. Continue reading
What a fucking day.
Item: Congress has tentatively agreed on a bill that will keep the government from shutting down. Now, there’s a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that the Republicans are insisting on a huge payoff to Wall Street, basically holding the best interests of the people hostage to the best interests of the insanely rich. The smart money says the Democrats will:
a) raise holy hell, then
b) fold like the Vichy little bitches they are.
In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.
None of this is the fun part, though. First, the GOP plan would … well, just read it. Continue reading
We live these days in a weird era where art and tech are linked in ways which I don’t believe we understand very well and don’t think about enough. Maybe we are in some transition to a culture in which tech is believed to be art and art is believed to be -I don’t know – tech…? Whatever the artist says it is…? Obsolete…?
This started out, as sometimes things do, with a conversation:
Lea, my wife, and I were coming home from one of her art exhibition openings last night and somehow we got on the subject of Claude Monet. The art opening was part of a series of events in which artists, writers, and craftsmen and women had simultaneously occurring book fest, art exhibition opening, and crafts fair. This is the sort of event that arts groups hold more and more often in these same days of this our life. Artists hoped that book lovers would stop by the art exhibition, writers that art lovers would stop by the book fest, crafts people – well, people still buy crafts, kinda sorta (more than they buy fine art and books, at least), so the crafts people were likely simply being helpful.
I don’t know how well the whole series of events went off (I didn’t even go to the crafts fair because I – I don’t know – well yes I do: at least half the tables at the “book fest” were selling – crafts – yeah, I know). I hope that the artist and writer friends I ran into at the two events I attended made some sales. But at one point last evening Lea looked at me and noted, “I think everyone at this exhibit is an artist.”
Yeah. I know. This is all too common these days.
And yes, I’m rambling, but I’ll get to something in a minute. Bear with me. Continue reading
Hipsters being savaged by a former hipster seems – oh, I don’t know, about right…?
No one who is a thinking person doubts that our culture is in trouble. Whatever forces have taken us down a road where knowledge of reality television shows is considered social capital are, I think we can all agree, malevolent.
In a recent essay in The New Statesman (and republished in The New Republic), British novelist and intellectual Will Self savages his generation’s acquiescence in failing to overcome being what he calls “the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditization of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action…of capitalism’s blitzkrieg.” His critique (written in a classic snarky style) continues with an indictment of what he sees as a completely delusional group of “artists” – : Continue reading
In which one author tells another, to paraphrase one well known critic, nothing can please many nor please long but representations by the general public…
In a recent New Republic essay, author Jennifer Weiner takes author Margo Howard to task. Weiner’s reason for castigating Howard? Howard seems to have reacted negatively to some of the reviews she received on Amazon.
Okay, stop laughing at the Weiner’s intentional or unintentional disingenuousness and bear with me as we discuss this. Continue reading
Android users: your phone is under attack. You know that Swype keyboard that’s so much nicer than clicking on each letter? That’s a surveillance device that logs every word you input. Switch to Google Keyboard right now. Swype Keyboard Free lists the following Permission Details: approximate (network based) location, precise (GPS) location, read your text messages, read call log, record audio, read terms you added to the dictionary. Google Keyboard contains none of that. Why does a keyboard app need GPS coordinates? Continue reading
In addition to its comment spam, domain speculation, and cybersquatting, Solar Home Inc also engages in sockpuppetryClick here to see all the posts in this series.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “sock puppet” as “a false online identity used for deceptive purposes.” Wikipedia’s entry describes a sock puppet as “an online identity used for purposes of deception” including but not limited to using the extra identity to talk to/about the original, praising/defending/supporting people or organizations, and bypassing site bans.
As part of my investigation into the online practices of Solar Home Inc, I have read dozens of comments on blog posts, news articles, online solar tech articles, and investor notices written by Solar Home’s founder and CEO, Ray Boggs, and a Solar Home employee named Ron Winton. In only two cases did I find either acknowledging that they work together. This makes Winton a Solar Home sockpuppet himself. In one case, a mistake by Winton in Motley Fool comments revealed that at least one of the three usernames affiliated with Solar Home was a sockpuppet. And I found several additional usernames that are also supporting Solar Home’s resale business, but no indication that any of them acknowledge their connection to Solar Home. Continue reading
Solar Home Inc has not only supported its business with four years of comment spam, it also engages in domain speculation and cybersquatting on other companies’ trademarks.Click here to see all the posts in this series.
In the process of investigating Solar Home Inc’s comment spamming, I came across dozens of websites that were all linked to Solar Home, either in the copyright notices on individual pages or on the About/Contact Us pages. Since most businesses don’t bother to maintain more than a handful of websites, the fact that Solar Home seemed to have dozens caught my attention. When I broadened my investigation into Solar Home’s websites, I found that Ron Winton (as “Ronwiserinvestor”), an acknowledged employee of Solar Home, admitted in a Motley Fool comment that Solar Home controlled “800 active websites” as of April 2014.
I also found that the 800 acknowledged websites actually represented a small fraction of the nearly 6,300 solar-related websites registered by Solar Home. Of those 6,300 websites I personally verified that over a hundred of them were explicitly tied to Solar Home and that, by offering several of those websites for sale, Solar Home is engaged in domain speculation. I also identified a few websites that contained the trademarks of other companies, including one that could be a Solar Home competitor, indicating that Solar Home also engages in cybersquatting. Continue reading
Solar Home Inc controls over 6000 websites, cybersquats on other companies’ trademarks, posts hundreds of cut-and-paste comments on news, technology, and investing sites, and posts those comments using at least eight separate usernames.Click here to see all the posts in this series.
On my first Renewable Journal post, a commenter by the name of Ray Boggs dropped a list of reasons not to go with a solar energy lease like the one I have with SolarCity. I briefly looked into his points and found that some were valid while others were not. In addition, I discovered that Boggs is the founder of Solar Home Inc, a Victorville California solar system reseller. This makes SolarCity and other solar lease providers Boggs’ competitors. So I responded in the comment thread, pointed out that Boggs was a biased commenter, and left it at that.
On July 16, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about solar leases and how they might not be all they’re cracked up to be, and when I glanced at the comments on NPR’s website, I noticed that the very same Ray Boggs had posted another comment attacking solar leases. But the fact that his comment at NPR was nearly identical to the comment he posted at S&R got me wondering if Boggs was more than just a businessman trying to undercut his competition. It got me wondering whether or not Boggs was essentially a spammer. So I did some digging.
What I discovered is that there are hundreds of nearly identical comments posted on solar articles and websites going back to September 2010. I discovered nine distinct usernames and/or individuals responsible for posting those comments, usually without acknowledging their connection to Solar Home. And I discovered a network of literally thousands of nearly identical websites controlled by Solar Home that serve the dual purpose of attacking solar leasing companies while also promoting Solar Home’s products. Continue reading
There’s been some back and forth here in the last couple of weeks about Ello, the new social network. If you’re on Ello, or are thinking of joining, here are some people you might want to investigate and possibly follow.
Let’s start with the S&R folks. @docdenny is, as you know, god of macro photography, and lately he’s been experimenting with some new toys and techniques that visually bridge the space between photography and painting.
There’s a cyberwar on and we’re losing. The New York Times reports 10 financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase are compromised and we don’t know the extent of the damage. Home Depot, Target (asking for it), Ebay, P.F. Chang’s, the Montana Health Department, and Domino’s Pizza (Belgium and France), have all been attacked in 2014, more than 1,000 businesses in total.
Meanwhile the hot new social network startup Ello is capturing 20,000 users per day, despite grave warnings that their business model doesn’t make sense unless there’s something we don’t know about it. One rave review mentions the total lack of political content. Do you believe that all those creative free-thinking American citizens suddenly tacitly agreed to stop discussing politics when they joined this site? I joined up to ask them that very question. Continue reading
In the last week or so I have seen an amazing amount of energy devoted to burying Ello. Mind you, it hasn’t launched yet. Still in beta. These folks are trying to kill it before the doors officially open. What’s weird is the range of attacks I’m seeing. Business insiders patting it on the head and ‘splaining why, noble as it is, it just won’t work. (I can’t prove that these folks are pimping for Facebook, but their efforts have to be making Zuck happy.) Pro-privacy types saying it’s sold out before it gets started because the developers take venture capital money. Design junkies telling us how it’s the worse design experience since, well like ever. On and on and on and on.
I’m not here to tell you that it’s going to put Facebook out of business. Continue reading
A friend of mine has been using Facebook to solicit contributions for his son’s school fundraiser. He’s not alone – I’ve seen more and more of this lately, and perhaps you have, too. Last night he exploded – apparently despite all his pleas, he got no response. As in, zero. He went off on his FB friends in ways that are certain to offend a lot of them.
A few moments ago I posted this to the thread.
I understand your frustration, and if I had kids I’d probably stay mad. But I think you’re upset at the wrong people. Continue reading
A month ago most of you had probably never heard of Ello. By now a lot of you have. And at the pace the news has been getting around in the past few days, this time next week even hermits will know about it.
The short version is that Ello is the brainchild of a team of designers and developers who are committed to preserving user privacy. Sort of an anti-Facebook, if you will. As you can imagine, there’s going to be interest in something predicated on that kind of philosophy, and interest this past week got so intense that they had to throttle new user add/invites briefly to make sure the system could handle the load.
I was one of the early adopters – I heard about it and went to the site to request an invite months ago, and I was in the door quickly when they opened it up to beta last month.
Here are some observations, in no particular order.
1: The creative factor is through the roof. Continue reading
It took me a while and a measure of forgetfulness, but the deed is done
Since my last post on the subject of Facebook (see Goodbye, Facebook below), I’ve paid next to no attention to it at all, reminded of its existence only by the slow feed of occasional email notifications, an onslaught that slowed to a trickle once I stopped feeding the best. Once in a while I’d click a guilty click to see a picture, perhaps of a friend’s newborn. Other times I was curious to see if the powers that be at Facebook ever bothered to get back to me on my request to cancel my Ars Skeptica page.
A quick bit about that, as an aside:
For whatever reason, of the handful of silly pages I created, Facebook’s magical data gremlins must have realized that Ars Skeptica was different. The others it let me delete without an issue. The Ars Skeptica page deletion provided a prompt that they would get back to me in two weeks time (many weeks ago now) to confirm that I do indeed mean to delete said page. Continue reading
What should replace the crap that passes for much of journalism today?
The daily print journalism I know and love is breathing its last gasps. The craft I practiced for 20 years, and have taught for another 20 years, is limping toward the grave. The newsroom values I have believed in for close to half a century face burial under a morass of corporate arrogance, a flawed business model, and a digital “content” that caters to our shallowest instincts instead of lifting us toward wisdom.
I don’t read as much news as I used to in the nation’s dailies anymore — either in print or online. Nor do I get much authentic news I need from local and cable TV. That’s not the same as saying I don’t get much news — as defined by the bastardized news judgments of managers of dailies and TV — from those sources. Surveys show we get something passing as “news” from those media.
But do we get the news — or sufficient explanation or interpretation of issues and events — we sorely need? Remember, much of what we receive via media, especially mainstream media, is secondhand. We need far more credible news about events we cannot or do not experience firsthand. “Our experiences are shaped by ready-made interpretations,” wrote sociologist C. Wright Mills in the ’50s. (See his “second-hand world” warning.) So we depend on journalism to convey events and issues to us secondhand. But we need clearer, more cogent interpretations than the press provides these days.
One of the things an aspiring writer learns quickly is that literary magazine editors are a quirky lot…but that there are lots of literary magazines these days….
(For previous essays in this series, look here.)
My second essay on Joe David Bellamy’s interesting look at the literary community at the end of the last century, Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millennium, is Bellamy’s essay on his time as a literary magazine editor (and founder).
The essay is really about two issues – issues that relate to the politics behind literary fiction and its outlets and the politics surrounding the relationship between creative writing programs and English departments. Bellamy’s essay is worth a look because it reminds us of the evolution of English departments, the rise of creative writing programs, the role of “little” or literary magazines in the move of serious literary work (both fiction and poetry) out of the mainstream, and how the Internet has allowed a renaissance of sorts for literary magazines many of whom were almost done in by publishing costs before the Web came along to save them (and allow the rise of many new journals including the one here at Scholars and Rogues). Continue reading