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Amazon – stretching for the stars! December 4, 2019

Posted by wastedspacer in Fraud, Rants, Scam, Technology.
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Its the time of year when many of us meander through the morass that constitutes the current state of online shopping for gifts with the monster Amazon.com being at the top of the list. We finally find the ideal item for that someone special and I suspect most of us will check the reviews. A 5 Star rating is what we are hoping for – even a 4+ is probably ok once we read some of the negative comments that really won’t apply to us. Many are simply off-base or a generally from a disgruntled customer who rarely gives positive reviews.

My normal Amazon search results are sorted by average customer review allowing me to quickly skip past the “Sponsored” items and get into actual customer experience ratings with comments. In a particular category or two, Bluetooth earbuds for example, I noticed a very disturbing trend as numerous products leaped to the top of my list. They had one element in common – THOUSANDS of 5 star reviews with absolutely NO Comments!!!

Same seller SDFLAYER , different items, identical massive number of zero comment reviews.

I wondered how … so I checked in on the Amazon site for their angle and here it is:

Amazon’s Statement:

How Are Product Star Ratings Calculated?

Amazon calculates a product’s star rating using machine-learned models instead of a simple average.

These models take into account factors such as how recent the rating or review is and verified purchase status. They use multiple criteria that establish the authenticity of the feedback. The system continues to learn and improve over time.

We do not consider customer ratings without an Amazon Verified Purchase status in a product’s overall star rating until a customer adds more details in the form of text, image, or video.”

Clearly Amazon is failing on the authenticity front – as for machine learning – I think all their services seem to be learning is how to be duped by fake reviews!

A bit further down the search list I found several other Bluetooth earbuds with actual comments, many marked as “helpful” and some had even engaged in a little Q & A. This was certainly looking better until I started reading the actual comments and any sense of trust in the rating system evaporated!

Here’s a few examples and some short links if you want to experience the hilarious commentary following these products.

Any five star review will do – cameras, dog treats – it doesn’t have to actually relate!

It got weirder from here: https://amzn.to/2Lk8fWm

Apparently you must get a mower not a set of earbuds!

Or how about this: apparently these are Khan-proof waterproof too? https://amzn.to/382UTHK

is it a purse, is it a top … or is it a set of earbuds?

Clearly these products have somehow ripped or rather re-purposed numerous random 5 star reviews from elsewhere on Amazon – but how on earth are they managing to get away with it!

Does Amazon care ? This is certainly not a new issue and has been the subject of many articles including this Gazette Review piece from 2016 thus it would appear that despite extensive promises, Amazon continues to miss the mark and allows many customers to fall prey to fake reviews!

Happy shopping everyone – peace out!

Bolting down to Disneyland November 15, 2019

Posted by wastedspacer in Automotive, Ecology, Electric Vehicles, EV, Technology.
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For non-Tesla owners and before DC Fast charger availability – if you wanted to use Interstate 5 the 8+ hours needed to charge on a level 2 required staying at a motel overnight!

We have enjoyed driving our 2018 Chevrolet Bolt for the last 18 months but in all that time we have never taken a trip beyond what we could easily accomplish within its nominal 250 mile single-charge range. Tesla owners have the luxury and peace of mind with an extensive, well supported fast charging network and integrated route planning service. Non-Tesla longer-range EV owners have to carefully plan with a little more caution when making extended multi-charge trips.

November 2019 was the first time breaking that self-imposed limitation via an Interstate 5 road trip from the the SF bay area to Los Angeles. The intent while there for 4 days was to take day trips to Disneyland, Long Beach and Universal Studios. We have made this trip before in a regular car which usually takes a little under 6 hours adding in 30 another minutes for a stop along the way.

The slightly longer highway 99 route with a well spaced supply of fast chargers used to be a viable though much slower (7+ hour + charge time) route for EV owners to get themselves to the city of Angels.

In theory, DC fast charge should give you up to an 80% charge (200 miles) – in reality we found that was closer to 170-180 mile range. still a usable boost

Recently added Chargepoint DC Fast charge stations on I5 have made it possible for us lesser mortal non-Tesla EV owners to attempt the run to LA. Bear in mind that there are currently only two SF -> LA “mid-point” sets of fast charge stations so if one goes out you may need to spend a few hours at a level 2 charger. Any EV trip will likely not be without the odd wrinkle but for the most part it is eminently achievable if you consider these straightforward steps:

  • Start with a full charge and make sure your EV charge card works before setting off.
  • Ensure car’s tire pressure is at recommended specs – low pressure can dramatically reduce range.
  • Check distances, availability and usage stats of en-route DC fast charging stations several times for a few days before travel.
  • Be certain the 80% charge leaves an adequate buffer to get to the next station or consider level 2 “top up” stations along the route.
  • If you still have range anxiety with just the max 80% DC fast charge you could also “top up” on a level 2 charger that is often near the fast charge stations. This will only add about 25 miles of additional range per hour but even a short charge may add enough of a comfort buffer.
  • High acceleration and sustained speeds in any EV will reduce range however on I5 setting the cruise control at 70 worked fine with a Bolt to easily make it between DC fast charge stations.
  • Preview the route for significant terrain changes. Steep hills and overly windy routes can make a notable difference in available range.
  • A/C or heat will also reduce range by 5% so if you can drive during more temperate times of the day or get by with air-vents only you will maximise your range.
  • Weight is also a factor a full car containing 4 passengers and a load of luggage may lose 20-30 miles of range over a lightly loaded car with just 2 passengers.
  • In order to reduce time looking for the chargers, use Google street view to visually check locations and nearby landmarks if possible.
  • Select your accommodation or hotel in the LA area that offers charging capabilities (preferably free) or at least has regularly available public chargers within walking distance.
The ORANGE markers are DC Fast Charge locations (image courtesy of PlugShare)
Using the Chargepoint app to check for location and availability.

At the time of writing there were only two “official” DC Fast charge Chargepoint service stops – behind Chevron stations at Santa Nella and Coalinga.

A third station set that currently works intermittently and will be officially online by December 2019 is at Wheeler Ridge Denny’s. This happens to be immediately before the Grapevine ascent so a top up here is crucial.

Not yet “officially online” DC Fast Charge stations at Wheeler Ridge (the one with the silver car works).
Chargepoint Technicians were working on the Wheeler Ridge battery packs before officially initiating this location by December 2019.

Otherwise you can get a slow boost at the (sometimes unreliable) Level 2 GreenLots chargers over on the East side of I5 at the Wheeler Ridge area Tejon outlet stores (you will need a Shell Greenlots card or app on your phone).

Malfunctioning Shell/PG&E Greenlots chargers at Tejon outlets
DC Fast Chargers at Coalinga

Most modern EV vehicles do a reasonable job of constantly predicting and updating range based on driving style, temperature effects, equipment use, terrain changes, weight differences, headwinds etc. Often shown as a nominal (or typical) range value is the larger number but is not guaranteed. A safer number to use is the Minimum range as seen here:

The nominal range USUALLY works but with steep inclines or strong headwinds a safer bet would be to stick with the minimum range.

Choosing the right centrally located EV friendly accommodation as a travel hub is a great way to take the stress out of day tripping around LA. We used a Home2 Suite by Hilton in Montebello as our hub. We had an awesome stay here and would recommend these for any EV road trippers looking for a stress-free trip. It is central East LA and less than 40 minutes to Disney, and around 20 minutes to popular spots like Universal, Long Beach or Santa Monica. The hotel had plenty of free Level 2 and Tesla chargers available.

Six level 2 chargers available for free. Additional Tesla only chargers are located here too.

The only potential issue we noticed was during busy times with non-EV cars regularly ignoring signs and parking in the EV only slots! However there were always available charging slots for us to use.

Non-EVs parking in EV only bays, The management did stick polite please don’t park here signs on the offending vehicles.

The bottom line is that you can easily make a non-Tesla Bay Area to LA run reliably using Highway 99. If you want a speedier trip Interstate 5 is now open for longer range EVs to make the run, Just be sure to plan ahead and check for potential issues along the route. More importantly if you are looking to spend several days in LA be sure to choose a hotel or accommodation that offers (or is near to) charging facilities. It will make your visit a LOT more enjoyable. More importantly it will ensure you have a fully charged EV for the return journey.

In our case, we ventured out on several day-trips : Anaheim/Disney, Universal Studios, Long Beach, Griffith Park and with the hotel chargers the Bolt was always fully charged and ready to roll each morning. The entire trip covered nearly 1000 miles and cost us a little over $35 in Chargepoint charges! To do this in our old gas-powered car might have shaved 30-40 minutes off each leg but would have cost us $200 in fuel!

Having now done this trip with minimal issues – I really have to conclude with … where to next?

A “Free Android tablet”? Methinks not! May 11, 2017

Posted by wastedspacer in Scam.
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Another day, another scam – spread the word!

I just received an URGENT, rather rather official looking and unusual piece of mail suggesting that a “gifting department” was sending me an Android Touchpad Tablet and a $50 prepaid Visa card  reportedly valued at $199.99. The document was signed by (using an M… squiggle) reportedly  the Vice President of the Regional Awards Division, The document looked like a check, had a check number but contradicts itself in a memo line saying this has no cash value and is not a check.

If you get one of these refer it to your local police department as a potential fraud attempt and let’s shut these folks down!

This was sent from some vague and grandiose sounding “Accounting Division” with an address of 611 Pennsylvania Avenue SE #405 Washington DC- which is actually a UPS Store! After a little digging it seems that if you call the number you (and your spouse/partner – suitable and pre-screened to be of financial means) will be invited to collect your tablet and prepaid visa card from a nearby location. The collection point has to be attended by both parties as a couple and just happens to be at an upcoming, high-pressure timeshare/vacation sales event.

We can see where this is going, those poor souls that have actually fallen for this come-on are given the usual 90 minute timeshare type selling debacle, harangued and harried to drive most folks away before they ever get to the point of acquiring the “no charge (underscored) tablet and pre-paid visa card.

These type of scams started in Florida and have been going on for over 5 years garnering hundreds of complaints!

 

Walk this Way… and tracking it! October 31, 2016

Posted by wastedspacer in Health, Technologies.
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silly-walk-monty-python-13514283-1280-8002

Following my ongoing attempts at a healthy lifestyle I  have used unreliable pedometers for some time. As part of our work health initiative, we were presented with a wrist-strap Fitbit a couple of years ago. After turning my wrist green I returned it for a refund and returned back to my older pocket-based tracking device. In my case the Withings Pulse which has been my tracker of choice for the past few years.

The Pulse has suffered a number of near losses including almost making the wash cycle several times, falling in the path of oncoming traffic and even dropping it somewhere at the Consumer Electronics Show where miraculously I was able to backtrack and find it! It certainly shows the ravages of being in my pocket mixed with keys, change and all manner of unmentionable items. The case is broken, the battery life degraded from 2 weeks to about 6 days, the paint worn and even the touch sensitivity has failed but it still faithfully records my steps. I was considering getting another Pulse but decided instead on the Fitbit One pocket/clip-on unit.

As my wife and friends all use Fitbit devices this was a logical solution since we can compare steps to “compete” in a way at least to encourage us to walk further distances. Given some comparisons to Fitbit walkers who always seem to get more steps in than I do over the same time, I have always wondered about the accuracy of the devices so I compared miles traveled with a Google map distance and the Withings Pulse over a 3 mile circuit and they tallied closely.

The speculation from my friend Laurence is that my gait is somewhat different so I actually use less steps to cover a given distance. Now I have the Fitbit One, I decided to test the theory. Both my Withings Pulse and Fitbit One were rattling around in the same pocket – the results are below – the Fitbit shows 4197 steps vs the Withings 3944 (about a 6% difference):

withingsvsfitbit

Fitbit One – Top, Withings Pulse – Bottom

Not a huge difference and in the grand scheme of friendly comparative step counts in the pursuit of health – totally irrelevant!

My iPod also does step counts, I might actually try another comparison …

…. to be continued.

 

Who’s Risk Is It Anyway? June 6, 2016

Posted by wastedspacer in IT Security, Notable Incidents, Risk, Social State, Spam, SPIM and other annoyances, Technologies.
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Nolan GouldHuman beings as a species are generally terrible at rationally assessing risk. This is particularly apparent when we consider basic everyday risks as well as common threats and risk from an IT security standpoint.

All thanks to the media, blogs, viral videos and security services the general public substantially overestimate the likelihood of spectacular, headline-worthy catastrophes.  At the same time completely ignoring many extreme dangers posed by common, everyday activities.

A prime example of this irrationality is a fear of flying. Fueled by news reports citing terrorism, bomb-threats, near misses as well as mysterious or even spectacular plane crashes. Other perceived threat vectors come from government agencies with a stated vested interest in keeping us safe (and of course themselves funded). Consequently, airport security screening services further amplify this level of latent terror for the misinformed traveler.

The end-result, we in the US put up with paying(as of 2015) another $7 Billion in taxes and even more added to the cost an airline ticket for the illusion of feeling safe. As the former FBI assistant director when asked about an effective method to fund anti-terrorism he put it thus: “Keep Fear Alive”. The FBI can’t even explain their success metrics around the perceived “war on terrorism”. The only real measurement we appear to fall back on is when the security fails! The only answer seems to be: we need to spend more!

Tragically, this appears to be a similar rhetoric that the terrorists themselves use to measure how effective their terrorism is on their intended target populations. The more perceived threats and the larger the anti-terror agencies become the more apparent they are as they broadcast the potential threats posed by future terrorism! Aside from the actual heinous terrorist attacks, the terrorist organization perhaps measures their success by how much additional chaos, media coverage, public inconvenience, fear and growth in anti-terror security services their actions are catalysts for.

Shocking airborne terrorist attacks such as 9/11 understandably leave the vast majority of our world population with a “never again” security-at-all-costs attitude.  Although the total number of people ever wounded or killed by terrorism on air travel is many orders of magnitude less than the number of victims by “ordinary” dangers driving to and from the airport.  Consider events such as having a blow-out or hitting a (deer, cow, dog, pothole) or being hit by (distracted driver, truck, road debris) when driving to the airport, all of these have serious or even lethal consequences to 1000s of travelers every year.

From a pure risk/value/mitigation assessment seems like an absurd disparity we could dramatically reduce the overall risk simply paying a little more money to fix potholes. Our collective thinking is habituated and skewed by sheer terror, amplified by sensational media coverage, augmented by continual terrorist rhetoric and supplemented by security agency threat alerts. As a result the perceived terror risks are far more salient and likely than reality. Consequently we are collectively convinced that it is worth standing up and funding entire government security agencies to combat the potential threats!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Keeping “Little Jimmy” safe!

As a general rule most individuals underestimate the risks for which there is a perceived benefit to the individual. The intended achievement of a laudable goal (or simply what’s in it for me) often creates tunnel vision where many risks are ignored or at least not adequately considered in context. Consider first-time parents of a small child they need to start taking to kindergarten. They logically purchase a very large SUV, perhaps a Chevy Suburban so that “little Jimmy” can be safe. What they understandably fail to consider is the consequences when the brakes fail on the Suburban. A smaller vehicle would simply bounce off the curb, the airbags would deploy and perhaps some minor injuries. With the height and gross tonnage of the Suburban however, it bounces over the curb and through the wall into the classroom killing six of little Jimmy’s classmates!

car-into-maternity-bvm-school

At least “Little Jimmy” was safe!

A less contentious example is the inevitable project management by dashboard method where NOT delivering on-time and on-budget are the only perceived risks. This conversely leads to the introduction of greater or imaginary risks for activities that have no perceived upside. The perfect IT security solution is a prime example where the pinnacle of success can be measured by “nothing bad happened today”!

We tend to mostly ignore or underestimate the less controllable risks in IT security. For example consider how easily can anyone in our organization get phished, scammed or inadvertently disclose sensitive information? We have awareness training for that but how easily or accurately can it be measured?  A number of security solution providers have a large marketing budget supporting products they can sell you to manage areas, functions and individuals you already have a degree of control over. But what happens when the actual threat is the password that’s shared with a spouse then used and inadvertently disclosed outside the organization? How can their solution address that?

The bottom line is that assessing risk can only be a general guide and not absolute. Perhaps risk assessment is more akin to Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle. A thorough unbiased quantitative risk assessment can certainly give a bottom-line risk score but as soon as it is observed and the results consumed by you, me or anyone else, each score will probably be different.

 

Droning on again! December 26, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Everything Else, Global Industry, New Rules and Compliance, Political Issues, Rants, Technologies, The Fun Stuff.
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ARDrone

I guess I could be classed as a drone early adopter of sorts with a trusty 4 year old Parrot AR Drone. I am somewhat dismayed that the FAA demands I now need to register it! It doesn’t weigh very much, nor fly very high nor even get out much but it does exceed the paltry 250 gram weight.
Being a responsible and law-abiding adult I decided I had better respond to the FAA drone-user nagging by visiting the FAA drone registration site and send them my $5 :
So what’s the big deal?    You first have to set up an ID which should be simple but of course there are unnaturally complex password requirements. You are informed that you cannot proceed with drone registration until your identity has been verified by a web link that has just been sent to you by email. Of course hour after hour go by with no incoming email from the system. You cannot log on again as your verification remains in a pending state, I send a help request to the supplied usahelp@faa.gov contact. Many more hours pass with no response or verification email!
Eventually (later the next day) I see the FAA mail has finally arrived. I click on the supplied link and I get a 404 “not found” error! I try again an hour later with the same result, I send another Email to usahelp but once again receive no response. Many hours later the site finally appears operational and I can register my drone. I was hoping to pay via something other than a credit card (Amazon, Paypal, BitCoin etc). Certainly of concern would be the need for trusting a historically porous government entity such as the FAA with my credit card information!! But given no alternative, I am forced to supply my credit card details (perhaps I should place a bet on how long before the FAA manages to leak their customer details?)!

DroneLALAFinally I receive a printable certificate to stick on my box and I can write my FAA registration on my Parrot drone! In fact if I buy another drone perhaps I don’t need to register that, simply use the same registration number hmmm? Well the chances of me flying more than one drone at a time is unlikely to say the least.

DroneLALA2
But why do I need to register this at all? Just how dangerous is my drone – or is it more about who is actually using the drone, the where and how?  Or is it just another media fueled paranoia piece of legislation latched onto by a government department keen to elevate its own sense of importance by adding yet more “care-bear” bureaucracy that comes with a whole department of taxpayer supported employees?

bigkite
If we are registering drones why don’t we register big kites? I see 7-10 ft wide kites being sold that come with 1000 to 3000 or more feet of line! They seem to be potentially more dangerous and can also be fitted with cameras. We don’t even register guns for heaven’s sake and don’t get me started on the dangers there.
On the positive side, it is only costing $5 for every 3 years and the $5 is being rebated (though I will believe it when I see the rebate appear in my statement).  I do get a “Certificate” which makes my little drone seem just that bit more “official” than it did.
On the concern side, yet another massive, notoriously porous, allegedly incompetent and insecure government department is being needlessly inflated. The FAA itself has become a juicier target with the millions of new drone-owner identities and credit card details for harvesting and exploitation by nefarious individuals 
Sorry for droning on!!!

More Trumped-up nonsense? December 11, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government, Islam, Political Issues, Rants.
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donald-trumpWhile I find almost all of the seemingly hateful rhetoric from the odious Donald Trump distasteful I find it even more challenging to totally condemn all of it when visiting the UK I stumble upon material that actually appears to support some of his claims. A particular example: as Trump alluded, there really may be seemingly radicalized no-go areas in London where many local inhabitants and some UK Police officers feel this way 😦

Daily Mail article citing a number of British Police Officers unable to wear a uniform in some parts of London.

News clip on emerging “No-Go” areas in London from 2012.

Trump’s approach to dealing with Islam are nothing new, here’s an interview from 2011 where he makes his views on Islam clear.

The problem with all of this material is that it focuses mostly on the most radical and extreme aspects of Islam. Nobody bothers making a documentary on “normal” tolerant Muslims since it would in all likelihood be rather boring.

However, I also think Trump in his incessant bouts of (possibly feigned) stupidity has extrapolated his suggestion of a ban for US incoming Muslims as akin to the wartime proclamations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including “Alien Enemies — Japanese” (No. 2525); “Alien Enemies — German (No. 2526).” . His kindergarten level logic suggests while not only the US but the entire civilized part of the planet is at war with “Islamic State” and IS claim to be the only “true” Muslims. Trump therefore is absurdly supporting the IS view and presents a statement that all Muslims must be banned from US entry for the time being! What he missed is that part of the civilized world IS MUSLIM most of who will declare that miniscule number of Islamic State followers violate just about every tenet of what it is to actually be a devout Muslim!

So why would we want to ban those who would be allied against IS rather than turn them away at the door and risk alienating a few to the point they become radicalized!

The same simplistic logic could be applied to ban Christians if we used the doctrine of Timothy McVeigh, the KKK or the Spanish Inquisition as paragons of Christianity they clearly would be unwelcome in a civilized society. However, when compared to other religions Islam has many political and more subversive components perhaps making it a more effective religious platform from which to launch radical ideals 😦 Take a look at the Islam and Politics Crash Course.

Perhaps Trump is merely a self-appointed spokesperson for a large contingent of society that refuses to evolve? Here in Britain there is an ever increasing backlash from both Islamic and non-Islamic factions.

Here’s a few examples from several years ago illustrating growing hatred within a polarized British society: Driving through a formerly innocuous part of London

A series of UK documentaries about the same time titled “Generation Jihad” paint a similar story:

The bottom line is that with the current trend, it would appear that civilized society as we know it is on the verge of collapse. Above all we need new counter-terrorism directions despite media fuelled societal, and political imperatives to react violently with even more indiscriminate military action or to create even more “care-bear” security policies with new taxpayer funded organizations. To fear, collectively identify, react and acknowledge the terrorist simply adds credibility and more encouragement to those hate groups.

If societal collapse is ever to have a hope of reversal,  massive majority of the civilized and tolerant world must rally together. Despite threats, enable avenues of communication, reach out to educate the ignorant and the religiously repressed and to ultimately stop fomenting hatred.  Easier said than done especially from within more radicalized societies but everyone who advocates tolerance over hatred and knowledge over ignorance needs to drive towards this goal despite the threats from within.

Where do we stop? Does banning Muslims at the US border actually provide a solution or merely further inflames the domestic Muslim communities already resident within each country’s borders?

Darkweb and the consumer facing state of Cybercrime November 10, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government, IT Security, Social State.
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The latest BBC Panorama episode (now available via YouTube) is a really effective and appropriately disturbing expose on the current state of cybercrime:

BBC Panorama How Hackers Steal Your ID BBC Documentary 2015

Darkweb = the eBay of Cybercriminality!

On the 9th of November BBC Panaroma put together this thought-provoking piece on the current state of the Darkweb. The primary focus was the volume of valid and current credit card numbers including the CVV were generally available via BitCoin payment for just a few dollars.

The recent internet provider breaches Talk-Talk and Comcast are merely the latest examples of known identity thefts that have been offered for sale via the Darkweb.

Many thefts begin with just general situational awareness and basic contact details (such as provided by these breaches) can provide organized criminal call-centers essential ingredients to perpetrate convincing but sophisticated identity theft along with personally targeted financial fraud.

According to the documentary, the Darkweb also provides sophisticated storefronts anonymously used by criminals to access all manner of highly illegal activities: Drugs, human and organ trafficking, child pornography, guns, valid passports, and even contract killings!

This raises the question: Is the leading edge of cybercrime pulling away from the ability of our law enforcement agencies to combat it?

Sadly the Panorama piece’s rather tepid “keep your anti-virus program current” advice from London Police commissioner – Adrian Leppard is not even altogether sound. Antivirus programs, once considered bastions of cyber-defense are marginalized and now under serious attack when seen by criminal hackers (and government spy agencies) as themselves potentially effective methods of malware delivery!

There are at least some publicly known indications of a response from international law enforcement such as the JTRIG team at the UKs GCHQ in concert with the NCA (National Crime Agency).

A simple credo to apply to all things internet related – always be seriously cynical and TNO (Trust NoOne)

DMV = Department of Misguided Values! September 9, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government.
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Earlier this year we bought a BMW i3 electric vehicle. It puts the “fun” back in funky, my wife and I affectionately refer to the new wheels as Sparkie.

For our anniversary, my wife ordered an appropriate custom plate for the i3 – namely SPARK13 (Sparkie and Sparki3 were already in use). Otherwise this seemed to me a pretty innocuous request. Imagine our surprise when we received a letter that the plate designation had been refused after being scrutinized and presumably extensively researched by the sinister sounding DMV Special Processing Unit!  According to the mandarins at this unit there may be an alleged gang affiliation and they use of CA Vehicle Code Section 5105 to deny our request. Seriously, do they think any self-respecting gang-banger is going to brag and get any street cred seen driving an EV?

Spark13

So dear DMV, you keep asking the public for more money to fix the ocean of potholes crippling California freeways. Why not look closer to home to see the types of low-value activities where you appear to employ a significant number of well compensated staff.

I searched for images, references and other possible known gang affiliations but turned up nothing matching the reference. The closest thing I could find suggests the affiliation they picked up on could be this Hispanic gang out of Santa Clarita: “Val Verde park 13“. I would have to recharge the i3 a couple of times along the way to even make it to Santa Clarita!

I am totally nonplussed! Compared to all the paraphernalia they CAN’T control like gang derived stencils, ganger styling, bumper stickers and car-paint schemes – the license plate is a miniscule and almost irrelevant issue! In fact I would suggest that having gang affiliation license plates would make law-enforcement tracking of “persons -of-interest” MUCH easier!

Based on recent estimates, the California DMV currently employs approaching ten thousand personnel. Given the average employee expected salary and burden, the costs to the taxpayer should be well North of $1 billion. Saving some of this burden by eliminating pointless processes might mean there is more money left over to go and fix more of those darned potholes!

filling_in_potholes

Rant over, drive safe out there!

Thanks Chase for our new Chip cards but what happened to the PIN? July 14, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in IT Security, Rants, Technologies.
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What is the point of having a Chip card without a PIN?

In my opinion, the US credit card industry is bonkers and just squandered $33 Billion on upgrading everyone’s credit cards by adding a Chip but neglecting to add any kind of personalization step to create a PIN (too difficult they claim)!

A simple implementation and personalization step would have been to require the card’s FIRST USE in a chip reader to create a PIN and also require a positive ID from the merchant/bank and/or face capture at an ATM sent to the owner to confirm/decline within 48 hrs.

Instead the US card holder has a card that will still work for an unauthorized person even if it is lost, “borrowed” or stolen. The only minor improvement is to reduce fraud in the case of card-skimming or number + CSC theft.

What particularly galled me was the US banking industry citing how effective the fraud reduction had been in Europe as a principal driver for this change. But those fraud-reduction statistics are actually based on the use of Chip AND PIN not just a chip alone.

Another irritating claim by Chase is the suggestion that using a CHIP card in Europe “may” require the use of a PIN in which case you are out of luck so carry cash instead! In my experience in the UK, if you have a CHIP you MUST present the PIN so this daft credit card is no longer going to be usable over in the UK. We don’t even have an option to create a PIN if we wanted one, the default settings for these pieces of dumb plastic is OFF 😦

Here’s one of the less-than helpful pieces of documentation from Chase:

DumbChipImplementation

Seems I am not alone in the lambasting of this rather dumb and seemingly pointless waste of $33 BILLION!!

Source: Money – You’re about to get a new credit card … and it’s an epic failure

and Wal-Mart’s executive in charge of payments thinks the United States’ switch to chip-based credit cards is going to be a disappointment.

So far our experience with what just arrived in the mailbox is certainly looking that way! We are being given 60 days to comply, they changed the CSC and nudged out the expiration date so we will need to update all our auto-pay settings AGAIN. We only recently received new cards and had just completed that onerous exercise!

Perhaps its time to start a consumer security pressure group to force US Credit Card companies to implement the PIN, or at least provide a way for those of us who WANT a PIN can get one since that is an embedded part of the EMV design.