America. Since it’s in the news.

I didn’t watch the in-ogre-ation yesterday. That was a good decision, everything happened without me just as well.

This morning I was curious. About the @potus twitter account that now is in the twitter-capable hands of one Donald Trump. (Interestingly his original twitter account, https://twitter.com/therealdonaldtrump) doesn’t exist any more.)

Something struck me. Let me show you:

Does this man strike you as a kind man? As someone who is happy? As someone who… cares about you?

I really would like to know, because I don’t think so. Not at all. He looks troubled in this image. Unhappy. Uncertain even. Not the qualities I’d look for in the leader of one of the biggest countries in the world. A country that has to become great again under the guidance of this man.

I have read about the first moves that will make America great again. According to Mother Jones, “the administrative order will end Obama’s efforts to cut premiums on FHA-insured home loans”.

In practice, this means that low-income homeowners will be stuck paying higher insurance premiums on their FHA-insured mortgages.

That’s probably great in itself although I fail to see how. Next to that, George Takei reported this:

Let’s hope they will be replaced by something even better.

Let’s see how event unfold. We may yet see a shimmer of light on the horizon.

Wearable tech

I love gadgets. I have lots of them and they love me: I don’t have to buy them, they follow me home.

But… I don’t like the mass of wearable things that are popping up now, especially the ones that can track every little thing you do. Your smartphone is already a walking, talking unit that betrays every move you make. (Cell phone towers that know where you are simply because your phone is on, stores that watch if you walk by or come in (and if you do where you spend most time) through the bluetooth and/or wifi signal on your phone, fun bits like that.)

Aren’t we tracked enough yet, by phone carrier masts, closed circuit cameras, the NSA and their equivalent in whatever country? Why make it even easier for them? Why not then have someone shoot a chip into your body to give them ultimate comfort in tracking you, down to the level of alcohol in your blood when you get in your car?

Dutch Government: Number of Internet Taps Has Quintupled In One Year

Via /. :

“A Dutch newspaper has a digital version of the letter Mr. Opstelten, Secretary of Justice and Security, sent to Dutch Parliament (PDF in Dutch), in which he quietly admits to 56,825 phone taps (a 3% rise in one year) and to 16,676 internet taps in 2012, a 400% rise, or a fivefold increase, in one year. An older report already exposed the Netherlands as one of the biggest wiretappers in the western world. Slate also knew, back in 2006, that Europeans actually love wiretapping and internet tapping. In the Netherlands, a country with a population of only 16 million, the practice has risen to the level of a staggering 1 in 1,000 phones being tapped.”

Beat that, America!

(Read the original on Slashdot.)

This is how we make money

I noticed before how companies are making more money without you knowing it. I have here a few pictures of a way:

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See here. 2 bottles of shampoo. The same brand, the same thing, the same price, just a nicer shape bottle on the right.

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Here we are, there is the same description on the bottles, so it’s really the same thing. So how do they make more money off this? They made the bottle prettier!

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Here’s the way. The old bottle contained 50 ml more. Okay, 50 ml isn’t much, right, but for a 300 ml bottle that comes down to almost 17%.

This happens on stuff in boxes too. Keep your eye on boxes of cereal. They will always cost the same, the boxes will be the same size too, just the amount inside them will get less and less.

Want another trick on how a tooth paste company increased their profit by 10%? They made the opening of the tube 10% wider. People are used to putting a certain length of the paste on the brush, so they used 10% more without noticing.

Take the bus. Talk clearly please.

Things are getting more and more ‘up close and impersonal’. As found on Wired:

Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations

Photo: Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.

The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies.

It also raises questions about security, since the IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.

(There is more, read the whole deal on Wired)

Mother Found Guilty After Protesting TSA Pat-down of Daughter

Found on Slashdot:

In 2011, en route to Baltimore, Tennessee mother Andrea Abbott was arrested after squabbling with the TSA over their pat-down and “naked” body-scan process. Initially Abbott had protested a pat-down of her 14 year-old daughter, though eventually backed off. When her own turn came, she refused both a pat-down and body-scan. This week, despite having no criminal record, Abbott was found guilty of disorderly conduct and sentenced to one year of probation. A surveillance video of the affair shows what appears an agitated Abbott surrounded by various TSA agents, but seemingly contradicts the premise by which she was convicted. In the case against Abbott it was claimed that her behavior impeded the flow security-lines and lawful activity. Beyond Abbott’s confession of issuing some verbal abuse, the video does not appear to display a significant blockage of traffic nor anything noticeably criminal.”

It is probably a criminal offence to defy the mighty TSA. If everyone were to do that, where would that lead the world?

Dutch Ministry Proposes Powers for Police to Hack into Computers

Dutch Ministry Proposes Powers for Police to Hack into Computers, Install Spyware, Destroy Data

Dutch Ministry Proposes Powers for Police to Hack into Computers, Install Spyware, Destroy Data
The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security has proposed some rather over the line measures and wants to extend such powers to the police that would allow them to break into computers and mobile phones in any part of the world.

According to the proposal [PDF] (in Dutch), dated October 15, the ministry has asked for powers that would allow police to not only break into computers but, would also allow them to install spyware, search for data in those computers and destroy data.

As explained by the digital rights group ‘Bits of Freedom’, which obtained the copy of the proposal, if the Dutch police gets such powers the security of computer users would be lessened and that there will be a “perverse incentive to keep information security weak.”

Another take is that millions of computers would be less secured as Government might not push companies to publish vulnerabilities on one hand and won’t encourage public to patch their systems on time on the other because it might want to exploit those vulnerabilities for its own purpose.

As much as this law is bad for the people, it is more so for the Dutch government as “other governments would be very interested in using such a power against Dutch interests.”

(Original article at ParityNews.com)

Sentenced to live

Imagine you are a hard-working person, happy and glad to do all kinds of things. And you get a stroke that leaves you paralysed from neck to feet, so the only life signs you can give is blinking your eyes. Okay, this might not be appealing.

Now imagine that this happened to you 7 years ago, and since then you have not been able to do anything but lie somewhere and blink your eyes. I challenge you, do it for an hour. Just lie somewhere and let someone read your blinking eyes. Just an hour. Not 24, a whole day. Now imagine doing this for 7 years. 2555 days.

This happened to Tony Nicklinson in 2005. His life is a nightmare and asked doctors to end his life. He is paralysed so he cannot take something lethal himself, even if someone buys those for him. He has to be helped dying in an active way. We call this euthanasia. A judge ruled that they cannot allow someone to help Tony die, as this is murder, and only the politicians can change this. Tony has decided to fight this ruling.

“It is not what I had hoped for, but it is not unexpected,” Mr. Nicklinson made known. “Judges, as politicians, are happiest when they can evade real problems. This means another year of physical discomfort and misery to find out who owns my life: me or the government.”

See the BBC post.

There is the human approach for you. I really wonder what is in the mind of people who condemn others to such unhappiness, and disrespect someone’s personal wishes…

(On August 22nd, Mr. Nicklinson’s battle ended. He died.)

Elections and voting – the Dutch way

The world is hearing everything about the America elections. Of course, very important as there are many Americans in the Americas, and America is still seen as one of the most important and influential countries in the world. Their voting system is weird though.

You have to register to vote. Instead of having the obligation to go vote because it is your duty as a proper citizen. Then there are Republican people there who try to limit decide who is allowed to vote by trying to exclude all kinds of groups who probably won’t vote republican. (Does not sound very much in favour of the Republic for which they claim to stand.)

Let me show you how it works in the Netherlands, one of the far less important countries in the world compared to the Americas. However, the Americas might still learn something from us.

When you live here as a registered citizen (meaning that you are legally allowed to live here, income and an address), you get a voter’s pass in your mailbox:

Voter’s pass-yay Mr. Blurrycam

This is not some silly reminder that there are going to be elections. It is a summoning to  vote. In other words: you are supposed to go, as in “you have to“. You’re not being excluded because the liberals don’t like the colour of your skin, or some other dweeb thinks you are not sensible enough to vote for them. If you choose not to vote, that’s your own stupid decision, but then don’t come whining when the new government is not what you want it to be: you had your chance and let it slip. (Usually they are not what you want even if you voted, but that’s politics, not voting. Whining, by the way, makes no difference.)

Can’t go to a voting bureau on the designated date? No problem. On the back of the voter’s pass there is a space where you can appoint someone to vote for you. The appointed voter takes your and their own voter’s pass, and their passport or other ID and does the voting. If you go yourself, you take your voter’s pass and your own ID.

Overview of candidates

You also receive an overview of candidates to vote for. This may look like many candidates but don’t worry: on the picture you barely see half of them (there are more on the back).

Instructions.

On the back of the list with candidates there is also a description on how the voting process goes, and it contains an overview of the places where you can go to vote in your town or city. Even in a small town like Cuijk where I live, there are 15 voting bureaus, and they are open from 7:30 in the morning until 9 in the evening.

I understand that this kind of voting is different from that in the Americas as we don’t vote for a president (we have a Queen). We elect the government / senate / congress / parliament, take your pick of preferred name for it. The idea however should be clear. (We’re doing it better. :p )