“Lawful access” — coming very soon to a computer near you

Public Security Minister Vic Toews is planning to introduce his so-called “lawful access” bill to the House of Commons later today. So, how does it measure up?

According to Ottawa U Law professor Michael Geist, it’s going to create a panopticon society where online privacy essentially no longer exists and is replaced with a sort of Big Brother. Which is pretty funny when you consider that the Tories are also about to introduce their bill to scrap the long gun registry and proactively delete any and all data therein. Apparently guns don’t kill people, but the freedom to go about one’s own business does… that pretty much tells you what you need to know about Stephen Harper and his cronies.

And then there’s the issue of cost, which is entirely offloaded onto the ISPs themselves, who will now have to keep a record of everything you do online — well, everything you do online taking the direct route via your ISP, making it trivial to circumvent — for 90 days. I rather pity the ISPs who are going to be stuck storing all that data at their own expense. You can be certain that they’ll be glad to pass the savings onto you, of course.

So what’s the justification for this garbage? Mr. Toews, never one to shy away from stooping to scrape the bottom of the barrel, claims that either you are with him or you are siding with “the child pornographers”. Never mind that there have been a number of child porn busts recently which have not required any of the new police state powers Mr. Toews insists are absolutely crucial to fight that crime. Personally I’ve always thought that it was illegal, but apparently by senile old Vic’s reckoning it was impossible to fight this crime before! Of course it wasn’t. Mr. Toews is just pulling his Maud Flanders act, and it sells out very well out West, where evidently people ignorant or mad enough to vote for the insane old codger think “internet” is a kind of potato blight.

But why should we let Vic the impaler set the terms? I say, unless you are against this so-called “lawful access” bill, you are siding with the fascists. I guess the Conservative Party has yet another self-renaming in the works.

The SomethingAwful Experience

1. Be in the middle of an interesting thread about creepy things you have read online.

2. Write up a long and meaningful post with many outside references that illustrate a salient point.

3. ..?

4. When you try to submit said post, you find that you’re on probation. For something you wrote over 24 hours ago but which some admintwat suddenly decided was probatable.

You know what, SA? Fuck you. I could hold on to my post for a couple of days and post it then, but no. That would be like casting pearls before swine at this point.

Assange extradition case: is the UK CPS under foreign pressure?

Like a rather large number of people I am following the legal proceedings to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden with very keen interest. It is a very unusual case indeed. The British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is currently attempting to extradite Mr. Assange, the head of Wikileaks, to Sweden for questioning regarding something which does not appear to be considered prosecutable in any way outside of Sweden. Of course there are additional facts which make this case particularly odd for the CPS to pursue — but pursue it it has, all the way to the UK’s highest court.

One does very well to wonder why. Mr. Assange has not been charged with any crime, in the UK, Sweden, or anywhere else. Mr. Assange has offered to submit himself to questioning at the Swedish embassy in the UK. There are strong questions of prosecutorial misconduct already surrounding the case, and rumours seem to abound to the effect that the “victim” in the affair has been coerced into declaring that there was wrongdoing at all by a particularly zealous and right-wing Swedish prosecutor.

So of course inquiries have been made as to why the CPS is taking on this case. I myself cannot think of a justification to pursue extradition proceedings against a person who is not under a criminal charge for anything. It just doesn’t make sense, unless of course the entire affair is political in nature, in which case there are strong implications that the CPS is being used by another organ of the British government for purposes which, on the outside at least, seem unethical at best and downright illegal at worst.

As I have already mentioned an inquiry was made to obtain information from the CPS as to why they are conducting this campaign, and the CPS’s response can now be published, as it has been here. The CPS is refusing to answer the question, but it’s the cited reasoning which is most interesting:

Information is exempt information under s. 27(1)(a) if its disclosure under the FOIA would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and any other State.

Now, I’m no expert in diplomacy or foreign relations myself, but it seems that the CPS itself is admitting that it is, directly or indirectly, being pressured by a foreign government into proceeding forward with the extradition. That seems highly improper. The CPS is not, nor should it be, answerable to the Foreign Office, or indeed any other body than the Home Office. And what interest does the Home Office have seeking the extradition of a man who is not charged with a crime in the UK or abroad?

And since the response hints at foreign pressure, who is behind that? Sweden has not seen it fit to charge Mr. Assange with a crime. Which country could possibly have a vested interest in getting the head of Wikileaks out of a jurisdiction where he enjoys legal protection and into international territory where he is completely unprotected? Hmm, I wonder. Not to mention that Sweden,  nice country though it may be, hardly has the clout to tell the Brits what to do. For that you have to look elsewhere. Surely it would have to be a more influential country, perhaps one which operates several military bases in the UK, to pick only one consideration out of a hat. As it is now no question can be answered as the CPS is keeping mum on the subject.

Of course one doesn’t have to spend too long reading between the lines to figure it out…

Lenovo update…

I got a call from Lenovo today informing me that one of the items ordered for me was on back-order… good thing I wasn’t holding my breath. AFAIK it’s the system restore disk for the laptop, which just raises further questions. If I need an additional copy of a CD/DVD I’ve already made before, I just use the image to make a new copy. Does Lenovo not know this?

I’m pretty sure this laptop has been a paperweight for longer than it’s been operating since I bought it.

Lenovo: a fall from grace

I used to be very happy with my Thinkpad X60 Tablet, and was practically an evangelist for the Thinkpad line. Just in the past year I practically sold two systems, a laptop and an iPad-style tablet, for the company. However this good feeling only lasted until my latest purchase. As things stand now I am pretty certain that I will never buy Lenovo again.

My mistake was buying a Thinkpad X220i Tablet in August of 2011. Said laptop stopped working in November, when I tried to start it Windows crashed with a 0x00000e9 error (unspecified I/O error, but more specifically a hard disk problem). Whatever, these things happen. They sent me a set of startup disks (DVDs) to try and make sure the HD was the problem. Those startup disks didn’t work (couldn’t boot off any of them), so I called Lenovo again, they apologized (they’re a very apologetic company, to the point that it becomes annoying really), told me they would send me another set of startup DVDs.

So I waited… and waited, and waited. After a couple of weeks (today) I decided to call and see what was up. The first support call seemed to go well, until I got disconnected. So I called again. The lady took my case number, told me Lenovo had a tracking number for the disks, gave me the tracking number, but it was pretty clear that she was refusing to do anything else (wtf is up with that?). I look up the tracking info through purolator (the most useless delivery company IMHO but that’s another story) and it’s clear that the package was returned to Lenovo. Couldn’t the lazy lady have at least looked that up instead of just wasting my time?

So I call for the third time on that day, and finally I get to talk to someone who knows what he’s doing. He is sending me a new hard disk and recovery disks. Well, hopefully he is. You’ll excuse me for not holding my breath until they get here.

Now, if the problem were only the service, passe encore. However the X220i Tablet is a piece of junk. It feels cheap and flimsy, the weight is unevenly balanced, and the build quality is terrible — I can pull the battery in an out of its housing by a couple of millimeters when it’s in the locked position! What’s more, the touchscreen has never worked properly, and that’s kind of the point of owning a tablet PC. Why does the 5 year old X60T I have feel so much better and more solid? Is it perhaps because it’s an IBM-branded product?

I once heartily recommended Lenovo to friends and family, but I can no longer honestly do so. The quality of the company’s products and service has taken such a nosedive that it’s really not worth endorsing anymore. It’s a shame because Thinkpad used to be the brand to go to for a first-rate experience with laptops, but clearly they’ve taken the road well-travelled of cheaping out on the design, cheaping out on the manufacturing, and cheaping out on the service. All of which I wish I could say to Lenovo customer service, but try as I might I cannot find an actual customer service number for them anywhere. I guess that’s representative of the company’s recent attitude towards the people who give them money…

On giving advice to people in internet forums

Here’s an old story from the internet on why you shouldn’t bother giving advice in the first place…


OP: “Help! HELP! I’m stuck in a well!!!”

Biggies 1-4: “Climb! Climb up and take our hands!”

OP: “I’m thinking I should dig… should I dig?”

Biggie 5: “NO! I was trapped in a well, and digging is a bad idea! Climb out!”

Biggies 6-8: “We’re lowering ropes! Take hold of a rope!”

Biggie 9: “I’ve even tied a harness to the end of this one!”

OP: “I can feel the ropes, but I don’t want to hold onto them… should I dig?”

Biggie 10: “No! If you dig, you’ll hit water, and then you’ll be proper fucked. I should know, I almost drowned.”

OP: “I dug a little bit just now, and I haven’t hit water. I’m gonna keep digging…”

Biggies 11-18: “No! Climb! Climb out!”

OP: “Guys, I’m seriously stuck in this well! Help! HELP!!!”

Biggie 19: “I was trapped in a well once. It took me two years, but I managed to build a climbing machine that pulled me to safety out of a well bucket and a pocket watch. I’m dropping the blueprints, extra buckets, and an assortment of pocket watches.”

Biggie 20: “I’ve engineered a jet-pack that will rocket you to safety. Stay where you are and we’ll lower it down!””

OP: “Thanks for your help, guys. I’m gonna keep digging. I’ll find the Mines of Moria and I’ll just walk to the surface.”

**Biggies 1-20 piss in the well**

Biggie 21: “Guys, seriously… stop pissing in the well.”


My first Porsche…

This year I’ve become middle-aged and as I am a man who has money in greater measure than sense I’ve decided to treat myself to a Porsche… Design pipe, model 909 in black to be precise.

Porsche Design 909 Pipe in Black

It really is a lovely piece of work. The “fins” on the bowl are (by design) reminescent of the fins on an air-cooled engine, which as all petrol-heads know is what Porsche really built its reputation on.

Don’t its ultra-modern exterior fool you into thinking that this is made of some experimental material: Porsche design pipes are made of good, tried-and-true briar. It’s a fairly large and heavy pipe; I really don’t feel comfortable holding it with my teeth alone while I smoke, for fear of cracking the stem. It’s definitely a pipe made more for a pipe smoker of experience; smoke this too quickly and the bottom of the bowl will get quite warm, although not enough to burn you of course. In that sense I guess I could see it as a pipe which reinforces slower and calmer smoking habits. Besides that, well, just look at it. I am pleased as Punch with my purchase.

Porsche Design makes four models of pipe, two straight-stems  (one with a round bottom and the other square) and two curved-stems. The sticker price on all models in the range is in the mid-400s, although you will find new ones on Ebay for a lot less. They are available in two wood tones, two titanium schemes, and two black versions (the Spirit version has gold metal rings at the stem instead of silver). It’s definitely an excellent addition to one’s pipe-rack.

Whatever you thought you knew about the 2008 bank bailout is wrong…

…because the reality is over 10 times worse than what was made public at the time. In fact a total of $7.7 trillion in loan guarantees and lending limits were issued by the Fed, which makes TARP seem like a trifle in comparison.

All you need to know about American cops.

Pepper Spray Cop

Pepper Spray Cop

That is all.

A note to the people at Microbytes…