Monday, February 27, 2012


Yes it's my creation.  Title: House of Cards.  Now go away copyright police.

As promised in my last review, here is a partial list of some sites that advocate for the right to use pseudonyms on the web and some reasons why folks choose to do so.  Read 'em and get an edumacation if you are one of those who have a knee-jerk reaction such as, "We'll all be kinder, gentler people if we use our real names on the Net" or "Why would anyone want to be pseudoanonymous?  They must be bad, trolls, criminals, or have something to hide.  If you are already in the know, you can read them anyways or skip on to other stuff.

sapphoq reviews continues in a heated vein: And I will say it again.  Deciding that people have to use their wallet names or the average-looking name that others "call you" on G+ or any other site is in my opinion, FAILBOAT.  Regardless of the intentions of any service, there are activists whose lives are in danger because of censorship.  Some of those activists may be using G+ as the platform that is still currently available in their country or via a proxy.  Although there are many activists and other seriously oppressed people on Twitter, not everyone has the ability or inclination to par their message down to 140 words.  When it comes to human rights violations, the idea is to get the message out to as broad an audience as possible.

I believe in my heart of hearts that all this hoopla over using our wallet names is so that Google's advertiser base can find us easier.,2817,2388640,00.asp,2817,2388626,00.asp

From CyberCrime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches by Felicia Donovan and Kristyn Bernier

From CyberCrime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches, by Felicia Donovan and Kristyn Bernier.  Indianapolis: Pearson/ Que, 2009.  paperback, 308 pps., including index.

I picked up this "gem" while browsing at a bookstore.  The title caught my eye.  I went through it and basically found a bit of sensational writing and nothing new.  The information contained in the book about how to be safe on the internet is already out there in abundance.  The authors come out as against P3P (peer-to-peer file-sharing) and also against the use of temporary and anonymous e-mailers.  The former stance is no surprise.  The latter stance is incongruent with the message to be safe from the bad cybercrime folks and stalkers on the web.  There was one item of interest to the aspiring hacker: the authors include the urls of several businesses that sell surveillance equipment.

Felicia Donovan and Kristyn Bernier use seventeen chapters and two appendices to tell us how to be safe on the Internet and how cybercriminals allegedly operate.  The chapters include ones on spam, sexual predators, online dating, identity theft, cyberstalking, and social networking.

Chapter Three devotes itself to "Cyber Crime Tools You Won't Believe."  The subtitles are: Wi-Fi Tracking, Packet Sniffing, Bluetooth Locating, What is an I.P. Address? [oh, the LULZ], Anonymizers and Anonymous Remailers, Fake Name Generators, and False Caller I.D.  Notably missing is information on social engineering.  That might have been a really helpful thing to include in a book which assumes that the public know nothing.  But alas, not there.  Not anywhere.

I was amused to find that folks who visit sites to do some "anonymous" searching or who use temporary e-mail addys are viewed as suspicious by law enforcement personnel, (pps 40-41).  Donovan and Bernier take for granted that people who use those services are visiting kiddie porn sites or generating hateful e-mails.  No mention is made of privacy denizens who view that where they go on the web is none of the business of their I.S.P. providers and perhaps are trying out the idea of obtaining a Virtual Private Network.  [Newsflash: many of the sites offering cloaking are hoping for return business as a subscriber to their VPN service].  And I've used temporary e-mail myself in order to temporarily access sites that require e-mail addys in order to sell the addys to spammers as a way to make money or wish to target me for ads based on my consumer profile ala Google Is Evil.  And there are folks who use temporary e-mail addys for reasons of safety e.g. they are being stalked by their exes.

The chapter on P2P mentions the RIAA as being the "piracy police" for audio recordings.  The authors tell us that in 1983, the RIAA began targeting college kids using P2P to share music files.  The RIAA folks log into the P2P networks and look around.  Once they locate evidence of sharing of music files, they obtain the IPs of the computer users who are involved in such activities.  If the IPs happen to be traced to university computers, the schools co-operate by [using logs of who was using the computers at the given time probably] locating the offending students and delivering the DMCA letters to them.

As of 2008, the book says, students in receipt of a DMCA letter could opt to settle out of court to the tune of $750 dollars USD per downloaded song or face court action via an RIAA lawsuit.  The authors admit to a judicial ruling that created a setback in the lawsuits still left standing at the time of the ruling.  In Atlantic vs. Howell, it was ruled that creating a file of music to share in itself is not a copyright violation.  Besides the obvious problem of downloading viruses and malware along with the coveted files, the authors say that the P2P networks can be confounding to the average legitimate user who then risks sharing more than s/he intended to.  An example is given of a hapless business employee who did just that.   
[see: for more if you are interested in the ruling].

sapphoq reviews says: All of the chapters are similar to the two that I cited in terms of sensational writing and highly biased stances.  There is nothing new to be had in "From CyberCrime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches".  If you must read this book, then borrow it from the library or read it at the bookstore [like I did for this review].  Better education can be had by reading true crime books and by visiting security sites and privacy sites on the Internet.
                                   A partial list of websites which advocate for the ability for folks to use pseudonyms and why they have chosen to do so will be included in my next post.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stitches and Time

Stitches & Time
945 Rte. 29E
Saratoga Springs, New York   12866

Jan-Mar   Thurs-Sun 10-5
Apr-Dec   Mon-Tues 11-5 and Thurs-Sun 10-5

Stitches & Time is a delightful shop combining the best of shabby chic with American farmhouse chic.  Inside the shop is a dizzying feast that delights the eyes and tickles the nose.  There are notions, homemade soaps, candles, dolls, heart pillows crafted from chenille, farmhouse mantels with fireplaces, curtains, pictures, a really cool floral chandelair, birdhouses, and more.  The prices range from $275 for a fireplace complete with insert down to $12 for a pillow and a reasonable amount of items available in the $1-5 range.  Bonus: Denise Murphy crafted many of the goods herself.

sapphoq reviews says: If you like shabby chic or American farmhouse, you will love this shop.  Worth a trip from anywhere.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet

     Recently, I was given a Nook tablet.  There are many other reviews on the Internet comparing all three Barnes and Noble Nooks to or as well as the other available e-readers.  This review will be rather limited to my experience with my Nook.

     In light of the recent small furor over the idea that yes, apps really can track you, I will say that Nook apps are no exception.  The Scrabble app does not want to function unless your Nook is connected to a wifi spot.  If it is not, it will either present you with a nag screen to do so or refuse to load.  This is ridiculous.  One can play against the Nook-- the name of the Nook Player is always Norm-- instead of choosing to play a random opponent.  There is an option to play a random opponent.  But in order to see your stats, you have to sign into either FaceBook (FB) or some other site.  And FaceBook is a plain NO for me.  I have no interest in feeding my wallet info to a site with known privacy issues.  Not to mention the worms that crawl wildly along its' pages.  To wit, a friend's computer was recently brought to the brink of death directly after his daughter had connected to FB and then skated around it for a bit.  Friend only uses his computer for e-mail.  While his daughter was on FB, the computer had an episode of worms pouring out of FB (those are his words, perhaps it was a DDOS attack I don't really know).  At any rate, his computer seized up and the techie who worked on it decided to wipe his harddrive.  So the idea of connecting to FB to see one's stats in my opinion is lame.

     The graphics on the Scrabble game itself are soothing on the eyes, an important consideration for those like myself with ocular motor problems and photophobia.  There are three levels to choose from when playing against "Norm."  Although the Scrabble game on the Nook lacks a play yourself against yourself option, that did not bother me.

     Reading an E-Book on my Nook I found to be particularly nice.  I adjusted the print so there was more white space between the words.  One can also pick the font if one wishes to.  There was very little glare.  There is also a bookmark feature although that is difficult to consistently get on the touchscreen. 

     The Barnes and Noble online store has e-books available for purchase as well as a bunch of freebies of varying quality provided by a publish yourself e-book company.  The Nook can also recommend books for purchase based on one's past purchases (sort of like a smaller version of Google slanting its' marketing ads based on the user's profile and web search history).  The Nook also recommends freebies based on the same.  The search feature on the Nook for books yields a very long list and poor type.  I usually search the BN site online directly if I want to get another free e-book.  I have bought a few collections which are priced at around 5.99 u.s.d. or below.

     I have not modded my Nook since it is fairly new.  At some point in the future I may do so following the directions available freely on the web as well as in the Nook Manual.

     Of interest is that although the Nook came with a cleaning cloth, the BN employees have been instructed to remove those when selling a Nook.  Apparently the cleaning cloth left black marks on the Nook which were fairly impossible to remove.  The Nook screen can be cleaned off with the same kind of dry cloth used to clean the lenses of eyeglasses.  One should also use a sticky on one side kind of screen cover which will capture the oil from one's fingers.

     The price of the tablet I believe was around 199 u.s.d.  There is both a Nook color and Nook black and white Reader available for less.  The current promotion is to get a black and white Nook "free" with a twenty dollar a month e-subscription to the New York Times. I found that idea to be laughable.

I love my Nook and I hope that I will love it for many years to come. 

sapphoq reviews says: An e-reader may be the way to go for those of us who have eye movement and/or light sensitivity problems.  For everyone else, an e-reader may simply be a luxury or a shiny new toy or something that just doesn't make any sense.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"All of the Anons and the Feds have moved to Twitter." - sapphoq reviews

I never understood the appeal of writing blurbs that use 140 characters and spaces (or less).  The rest of the world disagrees with me as I found out recently by shoulder surfing someone near and dear who tweets.  For the uninitiated, "tweeting" is what the folks using Twitter do.  And "tweets" is what they write.

What I haven't found is folks detailing the minutiae of their mundane lives.  What I did find was a lot of news bullets from Al Jazeera, the F.B.I., and AnonOps.  Some notable personalities hold court at Twitter as well: The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Penn of Penn and Teller, P.Z. Myers, and Jesus With Issues.  There are  rather interesting exchanges between Team Jesus and Team Atheist, little bites from President Obama and Connie Rice (or their press agents), and a bunch of "women" whose sole purpose is to get you to click on a link to porn videos.  The latter are rather annoying.  First they follow all new folks.  Some new folks will follow them back, not realizing their game.  Pretty soon, they post a link to a vid that they "just made."  The Twitter interface does have the option for a tweeter to block someone.  But the naughty women arrive in droves.  As soon as one account is suspended, at least five more sign up.

The Twitter interface is a bit jarring at first.  There is the difficulty of finding any direct messages to the tweeter and then there is the difficulty of finding out how to throw the messages into the trash.  Twitter uses @ in front of the two syllable names of the users (with no demand for something that resembles a name).  The new tweeter is then transported to a page where they can agree or decline to import their entire address book from their e-mail client in order to find known people in the mob.  The other way to find folks to follow is to type in an interest using hash marks.  Thus one can search for #news, #anon, #anonops, #occupy, #science, #evolution...and so on. A successful search of a #interest will yield the top twenty five tweets of that interest.  To follow one of the tweeters, one clicks on their tiny icon and is presented with the last three tweets.  The option exists to see more of their tweets.  To block a tweeter, such as the spamming video ladies, one selects "block @so-and-so" from the drop down menu.  Icons across the top of the page denote one's profile page, one's usually non-working mailbox, and "write a new tweet."

Twitter is a gift for folks with short attention spans.  The A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. adult can gleam a decent idea of today's current events and click on the shortened links, embedded U-tube vids, and pictures to find out more.  The feed runs rapidly enough and times flies even for the most mercurial.  Over each tweet are options to reply or re-tweet.  Re-tweeting is like sharing on Google+: it's what one does if one wants to spread the word to one's own followers.  A tweeter also has the option to "favorite" a tweet.  The tweet is then stored in the "favorites" section of the profile.

And yes folks, the anons and the feds have all moved to twitter.  It is easier there to sign up as an organization and there is no silly demand for your wallet name or for a name that resembles wallet names.  Unfortunately, Twitter-- like so many other services these days-- has yielded to self-censorship in order to aid governments that censor.  If something is not allowed to be viewed in one's host country, one is now made aware of blocked tweets.  The oldies at Twitter complain about the interface changing.  I can't speak to that as I have only shoulder surfed one relatively new user.  Twitter does work if one is behind a proxy.  And unlike G+, many of the tweeters actually do care about those activists who are not allowed Internet access in the traditional manner.  G+ users will say, "Oh but this platform is not written with those people in mind."  Tweeters have a hashed interest for using Tor to help folks behind the aluminum curtain.

sapphoq reviews says: As long as the radicals remember that the Feds and other watchers are also on Twitter, Twitter can be a useful and somewhat enjoyable tool for keeping up with the news and having some pithy discussions.  Worth a look for those who are curious.  Just don't forget to check on your followers periodically and block all the sexpot ladies.

Friday, February 03, 2012

2600 Meeting

Almost all 2600 meetings happen on the first Friday of the month at 5p.m. unless otherwise noted in the 2600 meeting list.

I got to the meeting shortly after 5 p.m. and I was pleasantly surprised by a sign on the table which said "2600."  I had been wondering if I would have to wave an issue of the magazine around the coffee shop in order to identify the group and gain admission to the table.  That was not necessary.

Occasionally an F.B.I. agent "undercover" is sent to?/assigned to?/takes it upon himself or herself to? infiltrate or otherwise spy upon such a meeting, it is alleged.  I immediately was drawn to a man sitting nearby with a laptop who looked like Chris on The Sopranos but in spite of dorky jeans I took to be a suit.  At any rate, nothing illegal was talked about at the meeting and in a general way such talk is discouraged at 2600 meetings.

There was a small group of us gathered around a table, a few with laptops out, with coffee mugs and animately discussing techy things.  Someone threw out a package obtained at a grab bag and invited anyone to take a look and take it for their own if interested.  Someone else showed off a homemade router, and a third a holder for a laptop (also homemade).  The conversation traveled through Gentu vs. BSD, learning C or Java, Hackerspace, conventions and contests, taking things apart, classes, LISP machines and Solaris.  Although the folks there obviously had much more knowledge than I possess about techie stuff, I felt almost instantly at home.  At last, a whole group of people locally who thought about and did some of the things that I think about and do.  We had a good laugh over the ThinkPad (IBM, no copyright infringement intended blah blah blah) that I blew up once.  Someone located a vid showing a floppy disc driver spitting out spinning floppies across a floor and up a wall.

Midway through, a Luddite showed up under the guise of wanting to work with us regarding getting an article of his published in 2600.  I pointed out that he didn't "need" us to submit it and another fellow told him that we were just a bunch of folks who read the magazine.  The Luddite talked about some Mars simulation purportedly happening in either the Arctic Circle or Antarctica (I forget which he said) and seemed to be proposing that we all enter his group's contest (for which funding was supposedly turned down) in order to possibly win creating a challenge for this simulation thingy.  We rather crudely informed him that we were pretty much mavericks in our style of working on projects and that we just weren't interested in his proposition.  He was also told that 2600 and Make and Ted were all available at the bookstore.  Someone suggested that he or his group publish his idea on Word Press.  He started talking about disabled people using what he called solo-switches but he had never heard of R.J. Cooper nor of the computer services available at M.I.T.  He ignored my reference to M.I.T. but wrote down Cooper's name to look up on the web "later."  When he realized that money was not forthcoming from any of us for his cause and that we were in fact techies, he feigned having to go back to his wife who he had left alone to watch the grandkiddies and split.

After he left, I said, "Dude wanted to fly off to Mars or something or what?"  It was then that it was revealed that the dude was indeed a Luddite and a member of a known Luddite-type organization as his website which he had mentioned (and that I will not, sorry Luddites) was indeed ludditious (or perhaps even ludicrous) in outlook.  The particular organization in question proposes that the members rocket off to Mars upon burning up the Earth and then live happily ever after in non-technological bliss.  I figured that dude was at the bookstore asking for copies of Make and 2600 and Ted and Word Press.

After three hours of enjoyable stimulating conversation, I left with plans to make 2600 meetings part of my regular haunts.

sapphoq reviews books and more