Relax. Aliens Hate Taxes, Too

alienThe SETI project is actively scanning the cosmos in search of alien communication. They’re using radio telescopes to monitor electromagnetic radiation in search of “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know. What do you want?”

So what happens if we eavesdrop on extraterrestrial dinner plans? Should we attempt to contact the entire civilization?

Stephen Hawking thinks this is a dumb idea. “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” he said.

Physicist and author Dr David Brin also urges caution:

Is there a chance, however small, that in making itself known to aliens, humanity could be about to make a colossal mistake?

It we live in this jungle neighbourhood where it’s quiet, and if you are a toddler, it’s best to talk it over with the other toddlers before screaming yoo-hoo!

Julianne Dalcanton is more succinct, “In the meanwhile,” she says, “Earth should just STFU.”

Your JoeDog isn’t worried about alien contact. He tends to think advanced civilizations are filled with selfish creatures. Why? Self-interest drives technological advancement. In cooperative societies, worker drones are content to do the same thing millenium after millenium. Sure, bees sting but they’re not going to destroy humanity any time soon.

If we’re going to worry about alien civilizations, then we should be concerned with the ones that possess awe-inspiring technology. Nobody invents that stuff to improve society. They build Constructor Fleets to get rich and get chicks.

In popular lore, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin to reduce the Southern dependency for slave labor. Bullshit! He solved the problem of separating seeds from cotton in order to make his white ass rich. If that freed slaves, then bonus. But if it increased dependency on slave labor, “Well, then, what are you gonna do?”

Interstellar travel doesn’t align with self-interest. It could take generations until it’s profitable. No self-centered creature is going to take on generations of burden so their great-grandson can become a wealthy womanizer.

For any space program to get off the ground, it requires huge government outlays and that means taxes. We can’t agree to raise the revenue necessary to fix our roads and bridges and we use that shit daily. Can you imagine trying to raise enough revenue to reach Alpha Centauri?

It won’t happen. And nobody in that star system is going to agree to the taxes necessary to reach earth. Relax, people, aliens hate taxes, too.



Your Morning Read

  1. Designed-for-security is a dubious distinction.
  2. How easy is it to hack a voting machine? This easy.
  3. Everyone wants to know what’s near me.
  4. A news network for cord cutters.
  5. You can now google your lost Android phone.
  6. How many of her children needed to contract whooping cough before a Canadian anti-vaxxor became convinced that maybe — just maybe — her position on vaccines was a little bit wrong? Every single one of them.


Which Side Are You On?

During the First World War, the Ottoman government systematically killed 1.5 million Armenians. If you ever want to anger a large number of Turkish people, refer to that event as “genocide.”

On Sunday, New Pope did exactly that.

“In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies,” the Pope said at a mass to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian massacres. “The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’ struck your own Armenian people.”

It was a sentiment that didn’t sit well with a Turkish “hacker” known on twitter as @THTHerakles. On Monday, he brought down New Pope’s website. Writing in first person plural, he explained that it will remain down until New Pope appologizes.

“Taking sides and calling what happened with the Armenians genocide is not true. We want Pope to apologise for his words or we will make sure the website remains offline,” he said.

I suppose there are two sides to every issue — even genocide. The pope’s against it. Which side are you on, @THTHerakles?

As of this writing, the Pope’s website remains unreachable.

UPDATE: As of 10:38 EDT, New Pope is back online. It looks like he scaled vertically. There are now four A records for www.vatican.va. On each he has an apache server which is forwarding requests back to Oracle iPlanet. It’s just like New Pope to straddle the worlds of open source and corporate opulence.



The Number of the Beast

sixOn April 24, 1980 the Maragos Brothers, Peter and Jack, walked into a Philadelphia bar with a platinum-blonde and a fistful of dollars. While Peter wagered large sums of money on the Pennsylvania lottery, Jack spoke loudly in a foreign  language on a pay phone near the bar. At one point, he turned the phone toward his brother so it could capture the sound of the lottery machine as it printed daily number tickets.

This struck the bartender as odd.

That night Nick Perry was working the Pennsylvania lottery as an on-camera announcer. The first drawing was the daily number. “Six,”  Perry said as a ball was selected on the first machine. And now the second  number: “Six,” he said. Finally the third number matched the other two. Six-six-six was one of the numbers the Maragos Brothers wagered a lot of money on.

Nick Perry was born Nicholas Pericles Katsafanas, a son of Greek immigrants. He spoke the language fluently. So did Jack Maragos. It was the language he used on the pay phone in that Philadelphia bar. The bartender started to put two-and-two together and alerted authorities. Nick Perry and the Maragos brothers had rigged the Pennsylvania lottery.

Perry enlisted the help of WTAE art director Joseph Bock who created weighted ping-pong balls to use in the drawing. Bock weighted all the balls except four and six. In Philadelphia, the Maragos Brothers bet every combination of those numbers: 444, 446, 464, 466, 644, 646, 664, and 666. It was the devil’s own number that delivered that day.

Now Eddie Raymond Tipton appears to be walking in Nick Perry’s footsteps. The former information-security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association is accused of tampering with the lottery. As a condition of employment, Tipton was not allowed to play the lottery but on Dec. 23, 2010 he appears to have done exactly that. Tipton was filmed buying a ticket at a QuikTrip convenience store. That night, his number hit. The ticket was suddenly worth $14.3 million dollars.

Iowa authorities accused Tipton of using his privileged position to tamper with the machine. According to them, he inserted a thumb drive with altered the random number generator and allowed him to control the outcome. Good stuff.

His trial is now under way….



Troll! Troll! Troll! The Trolls Are Typin’

trollface-originalYeah, sure, this is a nerd-blog but that doesn’t mean we’re a bunch of pencil necked Poindexters. We’re all about a song, and a dance, a little seltzer down the pants….

Okay, where’s this headed?

A JoeDogger sent me an academic white paper from … why are you looking at me like that? Yes, it’s a PDF … what do you mean PDFs are against your religion? It’s an interesting read. You’re not gonna click it, are you?

No.

Alright, here’s the Reader’s Digest: The folks at Stanford have developed a tool that can identify internet trolls with 80% accuracy. The process by which they achieve this is described in the link you didn’t click. In short, this could be the most important paper of our time. We’re talking Nobels!

Consider this: last year someone posted a cake recipe to a Melbourne radio station’s website and all hell broke loose in the comments section. While that episode provided comedy relief for many of us, it had to be unsettling for those whose thing is cakes and Australian radio. Trolls and spammers are why we can’t have nice things.

Fortunately, we’ve pretty much mastered spammers. By “we” I mean people who-do-that-for-a-living. Your JoeDog tossed its hands in the air and gave up. We moved our mail to Google and our comments to Disqus. Hulk smash! Spam gone! Of course, so are the comments. Are you guys that afraid of change?

Trolls are many things — “assholes” comes to mind — but they’re not spam. They first appear as legitimate human beings. As their posting frequency increases, they become more vocal, push more emotional buttons, become increasingly anti-social until finally no one can stand them and a moderator is forced to yield his Hammer of Ban and eliminate them from the forum.

Thanks to the efforts of this team, it may soon be possible to filter trolls much like you would email or link spam: with TrollAssassin (copyright!!)



Off The Deep End Again

middle school prankA Florida middle school student shoulder-surfed his teacher’s password then defaced his login page with a photo of two men kissing. That’s funny! Ten bucks says he chose that picture because his teacher hates teh gayz.

Your JoeDog loves this gag. It sounds like something he might have done in middle school. Back then, a stunt like that would earn him a few nights detention. In contemporary America, it’s a felony charge.

Wait, what?

You heard that right. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is charging an eighth grader with unauthorized access of a computer system which is a felony offense.

“Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done,” Sheriff Chris Nocco told the Tampa Bay Times. Just as easily he could have said, “My dick is only three inches so I have to find some way to earn respect.”

There’s something in that statement which bears repeating: “who knows what this teenager might have done.” That’s some post-9/11 thinking right there. Wait! Why do you call it post-9/11 thinking? Because that was the moment when we stopped thinking about things that happened and started worrying about shit that might have happened.

He might have erased the entire hard drive!! Did he? No. He defaced his teacher’s login page.

The student, Domanik Green, student-splained himself to Your JoeDog’s  satisfaction: “If they would have notified me it was illegal, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But all they said was, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that,'” said  he told WTSP teevee.

Sheriff Little Cock and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office need to get over themselves….

[EFF: Serious ‘Splains This “Hacking” Case]



The Key Is Under The Mat

cluelessHere’s a nice find by Ars Technica.

TV5Monde is a French teevee station whose signals were recently hijacked by Islamic militants. ISIS!! David Delos is a reporter for that station. He was interviewed about the incident by an investigative news program. During the interview, Delos was filmed in front of a staffer’s desk. The staffer’s cube was covered with sticky notes which could be read by the television audience. And what was on those sticky notes you might ask? Um, usernames and passwords.

French authorities are still trying to determine how the station was hacked….



The Creepiness Factor

Here’s something that may surprise you: People get creeped out when you use their personal information to profit from them. In a study by Ithaca College, researchers discovered that buyers were less likely to make purchases from vendors who acquired their personal information through dubious means and without their consent.

Your JoeDog, on the other hand, gets creeped out when targeted ads miss the mark. “What the hell did I type into Google to make them think I’d like a copy of The Osmonds Greatest Hits?”



It Knows When You Are Sleeping

lurchMohammad Sabah is a former Netflix data scientist who worked on that company’s movie recommendation engine. He brought some of that technology to Workday, an HR software manufacturer. So what’s the result of a marriage between movie recommendations and human resource management? It’s an application called Workday Talent Insights.

What’s that do? It’s kind of cool, actually. The program predicts which employee is likely to quit and what can be done to retain them. It’s not clear how many inputs it evaluates but Your JoeDog can envision an applicable scenario. Let’s say — and why not? — a really tall employee dislikes being known as “Lurch.” The application’s corrective action could be “Stop calling him that!”

 



Block IP Addresses With, um, block

Last night we told you that ISIS assholes were attacking America and its WordPress blogs. Have no fear, kids. In the War Against Internet Dickbags, Your JoeDog is here to help. Whenever he’s attacked by these people, i.e., all the time, he grabs their IP addresses from the logs and blocks their asses. He feeds those addresses to a script called block which, um, blocks them.

The script is just a convenience which makes your life easier. iptables does the heavy lifting. If you’re running a linux system — and why aren’t you? — then you probably have iptables.

Let’s block some dickwads now! (Continued after the jump)

Continue reading Block IP Addresses With, um, block