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Total Factor Productivity

Total factor productivity measures residual growth that cannot be explained by production inputs. Its level is determined by the efficiencies of labor and capital in production. Huh? What are you talking about? Basically, it’s a measure of productivity attributed to technological or organizational improvements. Then why didn’t you say that?

As you can see in this chart Your JoeDog cooked up with FRED, total factor productivity has leveled since the late 1990s. In other words, the pace at which humans are replaced by robots has slowed during the Internet Age. More people lost jobs to automation in the 80s and 9os than lose them now. That’s comforting … I guess.

So all the angry monkeys pecking CAPLOCKED rants about automation in the comments sections are simply displaying ignorance. Automation isn’t their foil – it’s bumbling economic stewardship.

There’s no reason to believe that employment won’t return to its 1990s levels if policy makers either increased aggregate demand or made labor scarcer, i.e., spent money or enacted labor laws. Unfortunately the people George Carlin referred to as “the owners of this country” oppose both measures. Blame them, not robots.

 

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Your JoeDog’s Fido was selected by Profit Bricks as its 24th Best Free Sysadmin Tool

About Fido:

A multi-threaded file watch utility, Fido can monitor a file or directory to see if its modification time changed, and it’s intuitive enough to recognize a change even if the daemon was down at the time of the change. Written for RedHat Enterprise Linux, Fido should run in all Linux flavors, and the source bundle contains RedHat init.d scripts for users’ convenience.

Key Features:

  • Content changes can be recognized with regular expression pattern matches
  • Monitors files for changes in content or modification times
  • It will kick off a user-defined script when it notices a change
  • Coded to POSIX 1003.1 standards
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singularitySome are concerned that self-improving artificial intelligence will destroy the world. Stephen Hawking thinks it could destroy mankind. Elon Musk recently tweeted, “I hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence.” The Guardian thinks they will disrupt jobs while leaving humans physically unharmed.

The idea is this: we build robots with smart digital brians. Those robots use those brains to build even smarter brains. Once they achieve recursive improvement, robot intelligence will rapidly advance. The most advanced species on the planet won’t a species at all – it will be a line of super intelligent robots. Welcome to the technological singularity.

People fear these machines will one day turn on humans and destroy mankind. That could occur in one of two ways: 1.) They intentionally destroy us or 2.) They unintentionally destroy us.

The first scenario requires a goal. To intentionally destroy us, robots must want to destroy us. They’ll need a test case to measure improvement. “This feature kills better than the old one.” Computers don’t feel emotions. They’re not driven by love or hate. If they’re driven to kill humans it’s only because we programmed that feature in the first place. We could be that stupid, but this seems improbable.

The second scenario seems more likely. Self-improving artificial intelligence could be programmed to reverse global warming. When the robot is ready to go-live with its fix, it better have it right or it could render the planet inhospitable to life. In other scenarios, they could deprive humans of resources as they work tirelessly to achieve a goal.

But what if robots achieve something akin to emotion? If they can set their own goals or follow their own “interests”, then who knows where this technology will go. They may devote resources to solving math problems or they might hunt humans for sport. Either way, if technology destroys humanity, we’ll have only ourselves to blame….

 

 

 

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bombBefore he blogged about technology, Your JoeDog blogged about politics. One day, he received an inquiry from the Detroit Free Press. The author — whose name escapes him — was doing a feature on Google bombing and Your JoeDog was google-bombing the President of the United States! What kind of political statement was he making with this google bomb, she wanted to know. Your JoeDog told her that he’s just tossing cyber spitballs from the back of the room.

For those who’ve never heard of it, google bombing is the practice of poisoning search results so that an unrelated page ranks high on a disparaging term. You trigger these bombs by linking to a site with your favorite derogatory phrase. If we all link to the Imperial Grand Poobah of North Korea as Little Kim, we can help craft “Little Kim” as his his online identity.

After the Iraq War debacle, “Miserable Failure” became George W. Bush’s online identity. His allies countered by linking the same phrase to Michael Moore. Unwilling to be a participant in bitter partisan politics, Google changed it’s algorithm and George Bush fell thousands of positions for that phrase.

“But wait!” you might say. “If Google changed its algorithm, then how come Rick Santorm remains a ‘frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter’?” That’s a good question!

Google’s change worked like this: if the words associated with a link do NOT appear on the page, then that link won’t count toward its page rank. Since neither George W. Bush nor Michael Moore described himself miserable failure, those links no longer mattered. Santorum, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Why? Because spreadingsantorum.com contains the word ‘santorum.’

So remember, kids. You can still google bomb your worst enemies but you have to be clever about it. I’ll help you out. Here’s the word ‘asshole.’ Now link the word asshole to this page and I’ll soon be the biggest one on the Internets….

 

 

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Tonight after tennis, Your JoeDog will have two beers at a local brewery. It’s possible many of you will do the same. Programmers tend to be like novelists in that a great many of them love beer.

You guys know Jim Koch, right? He’s the founder of Boston Beer Company, the maker of Sam Adams. Have you ever seen Jim without a beer? Check it out: he’s always drinking.

Now ask yourselves this: Have you ever seen him drunk? Has he ever made the front page of Gawker? Has there ever been a David Hasselhof burger movie starring Jim Koch? We don’t think so. At least, we’re certain an embarrassing escapade has never bubbled-up onto our internets. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one, but Jim Koch can apparently maintain his composure.

So how does he do it? How does he drink all day and not get drunk? Last April he splained his secret to Esquire. Today that secret finally reaches this blog. (Hey, thanks for the timely info!) So what’s his secret? He eats Fleischmann’s dry yeast before he imbibes. Does it work? NPR says “no.

[Esquire: Jim Koch’s Secret To Not Getting Drunk]

[National Public Radio: Don’t Bother; It Doesn’t Work]

 

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Yesterday was Christmas and you know what? You can’t get a stinkin’ slice of pizza on Christmas. Hardly anything is open on December 25th. Christmas is basically house arrest.

To kill the time between Christmas morning and the grand re-opening of his coffee shop, Your JoeDog played a little pinochle. It’s a pretty good game. The computer bids well and plays a reasonably strong hand but — WTF? — the bid dialog box moves all over the place.

Each time you submit a bid, the dialog moves so you can’t just click a second time without moving your mouse. Well that’s annoying. Indeed. Your JoeDog fixed that yesterday. House arrest ended today….

Life is good.

[JoeDog: Pinochle-1.0.7]

 

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stallmanYour JoeDog has blogged about cyber intrusions recently. (Yeah, we know, how about discussing something else?) In these discussions, he tends to avoid the terms “hacked” or “hackers.” While those words commonly refer to infiltrations and intruders, they are erroneously applied by the tech media. Hacking is an ethic to which hackers subscribe.

This ethic was popularized by Steven Levy in the book “Hackers.” To Levy, the last true hacker was Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software movement.

In the early 1980s, software producers began putting restrictions on their products and stopped distributing their source code. This put a damper on the hacker community which was used to a free flow of information. Stallman was peeved that he couldn’t freely alter, copy and share licensed software with colleagues. It struck him as highly unethical. In “Hackers” he contrasted this ethic with his own:

“The hacker ethic refers to the feelings of right and wrong, to the ethical ideas this community of people had—that knowledge should be shared with other people who can benefit from it, and that important resources should be utilized rather than wasted.”

When it became apparent that he couldn’t fight City Hall, Stallman decided to build his own operating system. Its copyright would mandate code sharing. You could use the source however you liked as long as you published your changes and made the source available. Distributors could not restrict access to the code. This is the essence of the GNU Public License.

So the key points of hacker ethics were free access, freedom of information and the betterment of all. Yet somehow the term is now almost universally known for breaking-and-entering. Are these people hackers? Well, maybe.

Your JoeDog considers guys like Richard Stallman hackers. He considers himself a hacker as well. When dickheads were attacking his site, he published his method of thwarting them. That’s hacking. Breaking-and-entering guys? They’re just dicks.

Unfortunately, Your JoeDog doesn’t control the lexicon so the term is now applied to the world of cyber-security. And within that community, subcultures have formed. We now have white-hat, black-hat and grey-hat hackers. The first group is dedicated to finding, publishing and fixing security flaws. They are most assuredly hackers that Stallman would recognize.

Black-hats are dedicated to finding and exploiting computer vulnerabilities. Are they hackers? It’s a tricky question: they could be. There are many who publish and share their vulnerabilities. They may do that for LULZ instead of a desire to share for the betterment of the community but the result is the same. These guys often benefit the community but it’s a small community comprised of other black-hats. They tend to restrict information to the outside world.

Grey-hats are morally ambiguous types who fall in between the white and black communities. Your JoeDog considers them the least likeable of all the dark side. Grey-hats are the guys who will work within the white-hat community then sell a zero-day exploit on the black market. Fsck those guys.

As a general rule, if the tech media properly applies the term “hacker” then it probably pulled a Homer, i.e., properly applied the term despite the ignorance of the author.

 

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What’s Your JoeDog doing now? He’s knee-deep in old C code. This code generates software that calculates the optimum way to cut sheets of linoleum as they roll off a production line. Aren’t you glad you asked? How old is this code? It was last updated in 1999 when it was ported to HP-UX.

You know how an old song can take you back — sometimes to a good place, sometimes to hell? Old code works like that. This project was coded by other humans, but Your JoeDog sees his own flaws in it. He sees techniques that remind him to hang himself back in 1999.

Nobody codes like that anymore. There’s a reason why we’ve abandoned some techniques in favor of others. For the past two weeks, Your JoeDog has been dereferencing variables, debugging memory leaks and trying to figure out what’s whacking his stack. Context is everything, people. In this one, you don’t want anything whacking your stack.

Now siege already encapsulates much of his current programming philosophy. It’s written in C but it relies on object-oriented architecture. If you encapsulate memory management it makes it easier to pinpoint flaws.

Unfortunately, his personal projects haven’t kept up with industry standards. This coding experience has prompted him to fix his sins before they become unmanageable. Your JoeDog updated to gcc-4.7.4 and he watched the warnings fly! This version fixes all of those warnings. There’s nothing sexy about it but you should probably upgrade anyway.

[JoeDog: Siege-3.0.9]

 

 

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According to the New York Times, the JPMorgan breach “might have been thwarted if the bank had installed a simple security fix to an overlooked server in its vast network.” And what fix was that?

Two-factor authentication. With this type of security, a user is required to produce two factors of authentication. One could be a password and another could be a dynamically produced PIN number.

This appears to tell us that a major American bank was breached because they exposed a console login on a public network and someone ran a dictionary attack against it.

This means they never picked up thousands of failed login attempts on that server. And it means an unguarded and “overlooked” computer had access to their private network. Just wow.

Later we find another interesting morsel in that article.

It is not clear why the vulnerability in the bank’s network had gone unaddressed previously. But this summer’s hack occurred during a period of high turnover in the bank’s cybersecurity team with many departing for First Data, a payments processor.

Your JoeDog is not suggesting it was an inside job by disgruntled employees, rather it looks like JPMorgan-Chase was a shitty place to work.

 

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