Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Comcast experimenting with Big Brother technology for your cable box

In Big Brother, Constitutional Rights, Entertainment, Media on March 29, 2008 at 2:11 am

Excerpted from NewTeeVee:

If you have some tinfoil handy, now might be a good time to fashion a hat. At the Digital Living Room conference today, Gerard Kunkel, Comcast’s senior VP of user experience, told me the cable company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into devices so it can know who’s in your living room.

The idea being that if you turn on your cable box, it recognizes you and pulls up shows already in your profile or makes recommendations. If parents are watching TV with their children, for example, parental controls could appear to block certain content from appearing on the screen. Kunkel also said this type of monitoring is the “holy grail” because it could help serve up specifically tailored ads. Yikes.

Kunkel said the system wouldn’t be based on facial recognition, so there wouldn’t be a picture of you on file (we hope). Instead, it would distinguish between different members of your household by recognizing body forms. He stressed that the system is still in the experimental phase, that there hasn’t been consumer testing, and that any rollout “must add value” to the viewing experience beyond serving ads.

Wow. That’s just plain creepy. If you follow the link, Comcast made a statement in response, then the reporter responded back. It sounds like Comcast is trying to get away with something. Either way, I don’t trust this at all. Even the thought that the cable company might have the ability to spy on me in my own home, or would even think about spying on me in my own home, is cause for great concern.

Why on earth would they think this is a good idea, when they could just equip the remote with multiple user buttons, if they want to customize the viewing experience and advertising? How does the user know that they’re not selling information about our private lives? How do we know that they aren’t ratting people out to the government?

Long story short, we don’t know. And therein lies the problem.

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Hat tip The Dee Zone

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Candidate Endorsement: Jake Porter for LNC At-Large

In Activism, Candidate Endorsement, George Phillies, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics 2008, Politics on March 16, 2008 at 2:51 am

Jake PorterThe Libertarian Party will soon be holding elections for seats on the Libertarian National Committee (LNC). After a great deal of thought and research, I have decided to endorse Jake Porter, a challenger for At-Large Representative on the LNC.

Though young, Jake already has more political experience than most people will have in a lifetime. He currently serves as Chief of Staff for the George Phillies presidential campaign. Prior to his current position, Jake served as both National Mobilization Facilitator and Associate Chief of Staff for the Phillies campaign. He has also worked on the Brett Blanchfield campaign for Iowa State Representative District 66, and was Web Content Editor for the Rock Howard for Texas State Senate campaign, among other campaigns. He is also the At-Large Representative for the Libertarian Party of Iowa.

Jake has some great ideas which he would like to see implemented during his tenure on the LNC. He believes in strict accountability of the party to its members, and to that end he strongly supports an honest annual report, containing financial information as well as a comparison of LP candidacies from year to year, to be provided to all party members. He also believes in accountability for LNC members, and believes that LNC members have a strict duty to act in the best interest of the LP, rather than acting in their own interest or in accordance with their own personal preferences.

Jake would like to bring back the Advertising and Publication Review Committee, and also strongly supports creating and maintaining college Libertarian groups. He supports the use of technology to save money for the party, and help its candidates become more competitive with mainstream candidates. He is also interested in bringing back and expanding the online resources designed to help libertarians volunteer, recruit candidates and new party members, engage in activism, and otherwise spread the message of libertarianism.

I find Jake to be honest and trustworthy, personable but not a pushover, highly intelligent, and intensely interested in improving the Libertarian Party so it can better compete in today’s political environment; and as such I feel that he would be an excellent addition to the LNC. For that reason as well as the reasons given above, I hereby offer Jake Porter my unqualified endorsement for the position of At-Large Representative on the Libertarian National Committee.

Legislators Gone Wild: Heywood Jablome Edition

In Children, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Crazy Claims, Crime, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Local Politics, Nanny State, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Republican, Shine on you crazy diamond on March 15, 2008 at 4:02 am

Tim CouchI’m not exactly sure why someone who sits on a state legislature (where he represents about two and a half obscure rural counties out of 120 counties in the state) thinks that he can legislate what everyone in the world does, but

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted. If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Ah, eastern Kentucky, home of one of this blog’s all-time favorite criminals, the Duct Tape Bandit. LOL. That probably answers my original question in this thread.

Aside from the logistics, in that it is absolutely impossible for a state legislature to legislate the behavior of everyone on the internet – no matter how hard they may try – is this a good idea?

Even though I covered the Megan Meier controversy to a great degree, I think it is a horrible idea, and I’ll tell you why.

What happened to Megan Meier was an anomaly. That poor young girl was mentally ill, as evidenced by the fact that she was prescribed not just anti-depressants, but also Geodon, an anti-psychotic. Her adult neighbor Lori Drew was well aware of this, so what she did to that child is absolutely unconscionable, whether one believes she is responsible for Megan’s death or not.

While I realize there are people who have mental illnesses on the internet – and sometimes I wonder if the majority of people posting on the internet have a mental illness – the internet is not a nanny, nor should anyone expect it to be. It is also not a place for children, or the otherwise weak at heart. It is definitely rated “R”, so no one who couldn’t get into an R-rated movie shouldn’t be here in the first place, unless they have parental guidance.

Some other parts of the internet are rated NC-17, some are rated X. With some websites, you don’t even realize you are going to an X-rated site until you are already there (another problem, but responsible internet users simply don’t click on unknown links in the first place).

I can write an article as ElfNinosGreatAuntTilley, and as long as I don’t harm anyone in the process, it is not a crime for me to do that. The right to anonymity is a basic right. It is a right which I exercise everytime I log onto this blog. It is a right which I exercise in my personal life on a fairly regular basis. The fact of the matter is that no one is entitled to know my name, in real life or on the internet. I’m not doing anything wrong, and in fact I do a lot to help others in life, but I like my privacy.

Why do I think it is important for me to post under a pseudonym? There are several reasons, all of which I feel are perfectly valid.

I used to regularly bust scammers on Quatloos, cooperating with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to get these slimeballs behind bars where they belong, and in that capacity I angered some extremely dangerous people. Once I even angered a man who was a dirty ex-NYPD cop, and a former enforcer with the Colombo crime family (yes, the mafia). He had stolen millions from people in a scam wherein he pretended to be a loan company for people who can’t get conventional loans, and he would charge them a large up-front fee. He did his best to ascertain my real identity, and made multiple threats of physical violence against me, including both murder and rape.

In a situation like that, I have two choices. I can either bust the guy under a pseudonym, and be able to sleep at night, or I can do so under my real name, and end up moving every few months. I choose to stay put.

As most of you are aware, I am a professional writer, and I write about true crime as well as criminology issues. However, I didn’t sign up for the publicity which comes with that. I have a unique name, and I don’t want people coming onto this blog to ask me the same questions I’ve been asked (and answered) a million times, and harassing my friends who visit this blog; yet I have every reason to believe they will do that, because that’s what they did when I had a professional website. I just want to be me when I’m here, and I want others to feel comfortable posting here as well.

Tim Couch may not think those are valid reasons for me to not use my real name on the internet, and he’s entitled to his opinion. At the same time, I didn’t elect him, and I don’t live in Kentucky, so his opinion could not possibly be more irrelevant to me.

The fact of the matter is that there are more than enough laws already on the books to handle any situation which might arise on the internet, regardless of whether the person is using their real name or a pseudonym. There are laws against stalking, harassment, obscenity, and other problems. Sure, it might not be easy to find the perpetrator, but it’s not always easy to find perpetrators in real life either.

There are laws to cover what Lori Drew did to Megan Meier, too, if the authorities would use their heads. She could be charged under child abuse laws, stalking laws, harassment laws … the list goes on and on. I don’t know why they decided to not charge her, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t be charged if the prosecutor wanted to do so. Of course, now a federal grand jury is considering charges against her for wire fraud, since she used a false name on MySpace for the specific intention of stalking and harassing another person (though that’s a Catch-22, since Megan Meier also falsified her age with her mother’s permission, as she was otherwise too young to have a MySpace account). It’s not a problem to use a false name in and of itself. It only becomes a problem when someone uses a false name in order to commit a crime, which is something the vast majority of people on the internet will never do.

So, in a nutshell, I think Kentucky State Representative Tim Couch needs to worry about things which are actually under his control. He is not in a position to legislate the internet, since he is just a state legislator. He has, like a typical politician, grabbed onto a controversial issue to get publicity. Even if his law passes, he is only giving his constituents a false sense of security on the internet since the law would not apply to anyone outside that state; he’d do a far greater service to his constituents if he introduced a bill to fund a public information program about the internet, or requiring that children in his state be educated about the dangers of the internet. He knows or should know that he has no jurisdiction to legislate the internet. If he doesn’t know that, he isn’t smart enough to be making laws in the first place.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

Is it just me, or does this not make sense?

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Politics, Science on March 15, 2008 at 3:38 am

Alden Link is a Libertarian candidate for the Libertarian presidential nomination. He’s an older gentleman, and his main emphasis seems to be on nuclear power. He claims that nuclear power plants can produce enough gasoline to end our dependence upon foreign oil.I’m no scientist, but I don’t understand how nuclear power plants can produce gasoline. Perhaps someone reading this can explain if the following is possible:

A nuclear power plant has the energy to produce about 15 thousand barrels of gasoline a day.

Given the following equivalents:
• 1 watt equals 3.4 british thermal units (BTU)
• 1 nuclear power plant produces 1,000,000,000 watts
• 1 barrel of gasoline contains 42 gallons
• 1 gallon of gasoline is equal to 125,000 btu
• 1 day has 24 hours

1) 1,000,000,000 watts / hour x 3.4 btu = 3,400,000,000 btu/hour
2) 3,400,000,000 btu/hour divided by 125,000 btu/gallon =27,200 gallons per hour
3) 27,200 gals./hour divided by 42 gallons per barrel = 647 barrels/hour
4) 647 barrels per hour x 24 hours = 15,542 barrels of gasoline per day

The raw materials needed for this process are carbon from recycled atmospheric carbon dioxide and hydrogen from water. This process is therefore non polluting and actually cleans the air

The United States imports about 13,000,000 barrels of oil per day. Some of it is used to run electric generating facilities. Most is used as motor fuels.

If the US builds 900 nuclear power plants for converting energy to fuel we would be energy independent. and not need ANY imported oil. More power plants than that and we could export petroleum products.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

“Mind-reading computer” raises ethical questions

In Big Brother, Crime, Police State, Science on January 16, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Mind reading machineCrime investigators always have their ears open for information only a perpetrator could know—where a gun used in a murder was stashed, perhaps, or what wounds a stabbing inflicted. So imagine a detective asking a suspect about a killing, describing the crime scene to get the suspect to visualize the attack. The detective is careful not to mention the murder weapon. Once the suspect has conjured up the scene, the detective asks him to envision the weapon. Pay dirt: his pattern of brain activity screams “hammer” as loud and clear as if he had blurted it out.

Read the rest on Newsweek.

Originally posted by ElfNinosMom on Adventures in Frickintardistan