Brian Jones

Programming, writing, and other stuff

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Rob Thomas will help develop a two-book “Veronica Mars” series that will pick up where the story of the forthcoming movie ends, with publication by Vintage set for spring 2014. The books will be an original mystery series featuring a grown-up Veronica Mars and characters from the series. The plot will pick up where events of the forthcoming Veronica Mars movie, slated for a 2014 release, end. Publication of the first book will be timed to the release of the movie and will likely arrive in spring 2014. Thomas will develop and co-write the series. (x)

Rob Thomas will help develop a two-book “Veronica Mars” series that will pick up where the story of the forthcoming movie ends, with publication by Vintage set for spring 2014. The books will be an original mystery series featuring a grown-up Veronica Mars and characters from the series. The plot will pick up where events of the forthcoming Veronica Mars movie, slated for a 2014 release, end. Publication of the first book will be timed to the release of the movie and will likely arrive in spring 2014. Thomas will develop and co-write the series. (x)

(Source: veronicamarsupdates, via elizziebooks)

Filed under veronica mars

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Booting from a CD in Mac OS X when ‘C’ doesn’t work

I was trying to fix a Mac Mini tonight, which wouldn’t boot from CD using the normal method of holding down the C key when you power it up. However, I was able to boot into single user mode by holding down CMD+S when the system powered up. I found this trick to force Mac OS X to boot from the CD by typing this at the command line:

bless –device /dev/disk1s3 –setBoot –nextonly

You may have to use a different different disk/partition instead of /dev/disk1s3. I just guessed until I found the right one. After typing in that command, type “reboot” to restart the system.

Filed under mac os x troubleshooting

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I received this email from Michael Hyatt to enter a contest for his platform university.
To be honest, I find this kind of platform building pretty tiring. 
It seems that people like Michael Hyatt, are starting to take platform building too far, where their efforts to expand their platform start drowning out their message. Not only that, this Twitter contest seems to go against Hyatt’s own post, Why I Won’t Retweet You. It’s wrong for his followers to ask him to retweet, but it’s okay for him to ask his followers to spam their followers with his content. I’m sure if people really like the content on Michael Hyatt’s Platform University, then they’ll post about it without being prompted.
But this isn’t something unique to Michael Hyatt, it seems like everyone in the social media world is finding similar ways to broadcast their content.

I received this email from Michael Hyatt to enter a contest for his platform university.

To be honest, I find this kind of platform building pretty tiring.

It seems that people like Michael Hyatt, are starting to take platform building too far, where their efforts to expand their platform start drowning out their message. Not only that, this Twitter contest seems to go against Hyatt’s own post, Why I Won’t Retweet You. It’s wrong for his followers to ask him to retweet, but it’s okay for him to ask his followers to spam their followers with his content. I’m sure if people really like the content on Michael Hyatt’s Platform University, then they’ll post about it without being prompted.

But this isn’t something unique to Michael Hyatt, it seems like everyone in the social media world is finding similar ways to broadcast their content.

Filed under michael hyatt platform university PlatformU platform twitter

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Ruby Backup Gem Error

If you use Ruby’s Backup gem and you get an error like the following:

ModelError: Backup for Backup for Your Backup (name_backup) Failed!
  An Error occured which has caused this Backup to abort before completion.
  Reason: NoMethodError
  undefined method `gsub’ for :dropbox:Symbol

You can fix it by deleting your .cache directory in your Backup folder:

rm -r Backup/.cache

Dropbox then you create a new session key and the problem should be fixed.  Took me a while to figure this out, so I thought I’d post it for those Googling the same issue.

Filed under ruby backup backup gem gem

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Let’s Convince the Media to Stop Stereotyping Hackers as Criminals

Earlier this month I read an article on CBCNews.ca called, “6 new ways hackers are using malware." Immediately, I was appalled by yet another story referring to hackers as criminals.  Most of us can probably relate to being extremely cautious to consider the context you are in when you describe yourself as a hacker—will this person immediately assume I’m some kind of criminal and not hire me? How resistant will my principal be if I ask him to let us host a hackathon at our school—will he think we’re having a competition to see who will be the first to hack the school’s report card system?

I did a bit of research and learned that in the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, there is a section for language, and a subsection that reads:

We avoid generalizations, stereotypes and any degrading or offensive words or images that could feed prejudice or expose people to hatred or contempt. Criminal matters require special care and precision.

Feeling, that this standard of practice was not followed in the story, I decided to write a letter to CBC’s Ombudsmen.  Here is the letter I wrote:

Dear Ombudsman,

I recently read the article on CBCNews.ca entitled, “6 new ways hackers are using malware.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/07/05/f-malware-hackers.html)

I feel this article violates the “Respect and absence of prejudice,” subsection of the Language portion of the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices.  In particular I feel it violates this paragraph:

"We avoid generalizations, stereotypes and any degrading or offensive words or images that could feed prejudice or expose people to hatred or contempt. Criminal matters require special care and precision."

Traditionally, the term hacker was coined in the 1960s to describe computer enthusiasts, or people who “delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers, and computer networks in particular.”  In the 1970s, the term began to describe those in the home computing community, among them are Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Gates who went on to create the personal computing industry.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the media began to refer to computer criminals as hackers—those who would break into computer systems and cause harm to the public. The term “hacker” as used to describe a criminal became so prevalent that the general public forgot its original meaning as used to describe enthusiasts.

Flash forward to 2011, and now a company called Facebook has rejuvenated the original meaning of the term hacker. The company uses the term “hacker” to describe all of their employees and engineering processes. In Facebook’s IPO Mark Zuckerberg described hacking as:

"The word ‘hacker’ has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world.

"The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it often in the face of people who say it impossible or are content with the status quo."

When the CBC uses the term hacker to refer to criminals, such as in the article “6 new ways hackers are using malware,” this is a generalization and stereotyping of all people who call themselves hackers, the vast majority of whom do not engage in criminal activities. In essence, the CBC is suggesting that all employees of Facebook are using malware to engage in criminal activities.

Personally, let me describe how this generalization has exposed me to prejudice and contempt. Myself and a group of friends recently started a local “hackerspace,” a place for computer enthusiasts (not criminals), to meet, share equipment and ideas. We recently tried to approach our local college for support, but once the department manager heard the word “hacker” he immediately wanted nothing to do with us, assuming that we were criminals engaging in illegal activities.  In another example, should I choose to brand myself, a computer programmer, as a hacker—as defined by Facebook—when I attempt to apply for jobs to employers who read articles such as those found on your website, they will immediately associate me with criminals. In other words, because of the CBC’s use of the word hacker, I cannot describe myself as a hacker and expect to receive employment.

I hope my letter has made it clear why the CBC should re-evaluate its use of the term “hacker” to describe criminals, and generalizing, associating, and stereotyping hackers with criminal activities.  As the ombudsman, I would also ask you to determine if the article, “6 new ways hackers are using malware,” violated this policy in your Journalistic Stands and Practices:

"We avoid generalizations, stereotypes and any degrading or offensive words or images that could feed prejudice or expose people to hatred or contempt. Criminal matters require special care and precision." (Respect and absence of prejudice, Language)

Thank you for listening to my complaint.

Brian Jones

Today, I received a response from Esther Enkin, Executive Director of CBC News:

Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for your e-mail of July 6 addressed to Kirk LaPointe, CBC Ombudsman, drawing our attention to a CBCNews.ca story posted on July 5 under the headline, “6 new ways hackers are using malware”. Specifically, you wrote that the story “generalizes and stereotypes hackers as criminals”, when the vast majority of hackers are law-abiding computer enthusiasts. You suggested CBC should “re-evaluate” its use of the word.

I fully appreciate that there are those in the computer industry that take some pride in calling themselves hackers – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg among them. You wrote that the word has long been used by computer enthusiasts to describe themselves and a playful, innovative way of solving problems. And of course it still is.

But, as you will know, “hacker” is one of many words in English (known as contronyms) that enjoy several contradictory meanings. “Hacker” is also commonly understood to mean a computer criminal, someone who is skilled at breaking into or subverting computer systems. Certainly, it is that pejorative meaning that is almost exclusively found these days in the news media.

That is the way it was used in this CBC story. But our editors are aware of the word’s contradictory meanings. To ensure readers understand how it is used, they put the word in a context that makes its meaning immediately clear; for example, the headline says hackers are “using malware”, the story’s first sentence says “hackers” are using these programs to “con and annoy”. 

I realize the word’s use is the subject of heated controversy in some quarters. We cannot resolve that. However, we do have a responsibility to write accurately and clearly, as I believe this story is clear

Thank you again for your e-mail. I hope my reply has reassured you of the continuing integrity of our news service.

Finally, it is my responsibility to tell you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at Box 500, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at ombudsman@cbc.ca.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
Executive Editor, CBC News

While I understand that traditionally in the media has used the word hacker to refer to criminal activities related to computer crime, the majority, as Mark Zuckerberg described “tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world.” Just because a word may have a double meaning in the media, does not mean that its use to describe criminal activities does not harm a group of innocent people who call themselves hackers. We would never say something like, “plumbers are using wrenches to hurt individuals who do not flush.” If someone is committing a crime, it’s always better to say “criminals are shooting people on the street.”

I am posting my thoughts on this issue, and these two letters because I want your feedback before I ask the Ombudsmen to review the issue (the journalists have a chance to respond before the Ombudsmen reviews the complaint). What do you think? What reasons should I give the Ombudsmen justifying the mis-use of the word hacker? How has the media’s use of the word hacker harmed you?

Filed under cbc hacker hacking stereotypes cbcnews hackers

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Why Don’t Phones Let Us Record Calls?

Fraud happens on the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) because it’s outdated. The laws and tariffs on the network were designed for an era when IP Telephony did not exist, and long distance was much more expensive than it was now. Certainly, with all the technology we use everyday on the Internet, the PSTN could be made much more secure, and accountable, but with numerous vendors and stakeholders involved any major changes would be expensive or nearly impossible to implement. However, I will propose two very simple changes that could have significant impact on fighting fraud. Here is the first proposal, and I will write about the second proposal in an upcoming post.

The first, and easiest change, is that handset manufacturers should start producing phones with the capability to record phone calls. Or at the very least, electronics manufacturers should start producing inexpensive equipment for recording telephone calls. We have the tech, and it’s much cheaper to produce than ever before. The law, at least in Canada, allows anyone to record a conversation they are apart of without the consent of the other party for their own personal reference, or journalistic purposes.

Recording phone calls, particularly telemarketing calls–both illegal and legal calls–have the following benefits:

  1. It holds the telemarketing industry accountable. Not everyone follows proper telemarketing rules, or etiquette all the time. A recording is your silver bullet for keeping them accountable. It’s a indisputable record of events that can be shared with management, and of course in today’s society: the Internet.
  2. It enhances law enforcement’s ability to investigate fraud. Giving law enforcement a recording of a fraudulent phone call helps them identify calling agencies, develop a profile, and more importantly it’s evidence that could be used in court.  As well, recordings will allow law enforcement to better support the victim of fraud by knowing exactly what information was disclosed.
  3. It raises public awareness of fraud, and the types of fraud being conducted. Nothing educates the public better than being able to listen to a telemarketing call. Listeners of my Unwanted Calls podcast are well aware of the tactics used by Microsoft Windows Virus scammers, and are educated by my recordings to know that their computers are fine.

If handsets with the ability to record calls were generally available on the market, more recordings of fraudulent calls would be posted on the Internet and provided to law enforcement, thus increasing the public’s awareness of phone fraud and in turn lowering it’s profitability.

Filed under telemarketing phones telecommunications recording law