From Pine View Farm

Geek Stuff category archive

Facebook Frolics 0

Naveed Saleh reports that enthusiasm for Facebook seems to be waning, citing surveys that show more and more persons are taking longer breaks from the Wells Fargo of social media and that a significant number of persons are removing the Facebook app from their smartphones.*

At Psychology Today Blogs, he suggests ten reasons why this might be so. Here’s one; follow the link for the rest.

Thin content. Lots of the content on Facebook is quite thin. How important is it for you to see your second-cousin’s kid standing in front of a limo before prom? Or, another duck-face selfie?


*Even if you don’t intend to dial back you Facebook usage, not using their smartphone app is a wise choice. It spies on users relentlessly. When I visit Facebook, which I must do once or twice a month as part of outreach efforts for outfits I reach out for–when you do outreach, you have to reach out to where the people are–I use a private browser window, so Facebook cannot continue to spy on me after I’m done with them.


Twits on Twitter 0

“Unusual activity on your account.”


Geeking Out 0

Screen capture of Electric Sheep, a dynamic visual delight, running under xscreensaver on Slackware 14.2:


Click for the original image.

I took the screenshot by telling Ksnapshot to take a screenshot after [mumble] seconds. Then I put the screensaver into preview mode and Ksnapshot grabbed the capture; I then sent image to the GIMP to crop it, because my monitor is 16:9 and Electric Sheep seems to default to 4:3.

(Note: In the current version of KDE, the Plasma Desktop, Ksnapshot has been renamed “Spectacle” for some fool reason. It seems to work pretty much the same way.)


Make TWUUG Your LUG 0

Learn about the wonderful world of free and open source. Use computers to do what you want, not what someone else wants you to do. Learn how to use GNU/Linux and its plethora of free and open source software to get stuff done with computers.

It’s not hard; it’s just different.

Tidewater Unix Users Group

When: Monthly TWUUG meeting at 7:30 p. m. on the first Thursday of the month (January 3, 2018). Pre-meeting dinner at Chicago Uno, JANAF shopping center, 6:00 p. m. (map)

Who: Everyone in TideWater/Hampton Roads with interest in any/all flavors of Unix/Linux. There are no dues or signup requirements. All are welcome.

Where: Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital in Norfolk Training Room (map). (Wireless and wired internet connection available.) Turn right upon entering, then left at the last corridor and look for the open meeting room.


Digital Door Openers 0

If you are considering getting–or have already gotten–one of those web-based digital assistants and have all kinds of internet enabled gadgets and geegaws, you may want to think again. Two researchers at William and Mary have been investigating that stuff, and what they found is not reassuring. Here’s a bit:

For example, let’s say you want to change the temperature of your thermostat. You pull up your smart home app on your mobile phone and tell it to turn up the heat. The app will then write a change to the target temperature variable in the centralized data store. The thermostat device will subsequently receive an update from the data store and change its temperature accordingly. The system works because apps and devices are able to communicate by reading from or writing to variables in the centralized data store.

The problem, Nadkarni and Poshyvanyk explained, is that a data store-based system provides hackers the ability to access all devices in the home, from light switches to security alarms. An adversary can compromise one low-integrity product, like a sprinkler or a third-party lighting app, and modify a data store variable that another high-integrity product, such as a security alarm, depends on. This can have a whole host of unwanted consequences.

This example is particularly telling for us, as we just got a new heating system which includes precisely the sort of function described above.

We opted not to get the app. Dammit, we are not so lazy that we cannot walk upstairs and push a button, for Pete’s sake.

Remember, as manufacturers rush to push out new digital gadgets, security is always an afterthought.


Facebook Frolics 0

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Facebook is the Wells Fargo of “social” media.


How Stuff Works, Truth Overwhelmed Dept. 0

David A. Asch and Raina Merchant detail the erosion of truth as a result of the explosion of “social” media; they identify three factors. An excerpt (emphasis added):

First is social media. Social media stands next to the printing press and moveable type among inventions that dramatically lowered the cost of communicating widely — now to the point that anyone can do it. Here, you find little to no fact-checking, and no editorial standards to govern broadcasted information. . . . . Paradoxically, perceived credibility may have increased. Communications through pre-existing social networks are typically more trusted than information from impersonal sources.

Second is selective deafness. When Walter Cronkite was the “Most Trusted Man in America,” many received their news from that single source. Now, Americans can select news feeds from thinly parsed media channels. It’s only human to want to hear what you want to hear. But what is a good strategy for music is not a good strategy for news. The problem is less that those into homeopathy can subscribe to homeopathy-favorable channels — it’s that they can do so to the exclusion of everything else. Selective deafness creates the “echo chamber” people decry.

Third is that lies are chameleons. Truth comes in only one form, but lies can be shaped to match any taste. The suffering want hope, and those unencumbered by the truth have an easier time giving it to them.


Facebook Frolics 0

Woman in living room on phone:  Hello, police?  I'd like to report a peeping Tom outside my house and spying on me and I'm afraid he's going to . . . never mind, it's only Mark Zuckerberg.

Click for the original image.


Facebook Frolics: A Christmas Frolic 0

Santa Claus to child on his knee:  You don't have to tell me what you want for Christmas.  I already bought that information from Facebook.

Via Job’s Anger.


Listen for the Echo 0

Hi! Big Data. Come on in.

After all, what could possible go wrong?


Amazon accidentally sent 1,700 recordings of someone speaking to Alexa to the wrong person, according to a German magazine.

The magazine said that the recordings had lots of personal information and that it was easily able to find the person whose data was leaked.

The episode underscores that Amazon stores audio files when you speak to Alexa.

The story goes on to report that Amazon says this is an isolated event, but I frankly find their making and keeping the recordings to be creepy. And expected.


“I Can’t Dance, Don’t Make Me” 0

Alfonso Ribeiro’s dances the legal two-step.


Facebook Frolics 0

Analytical frolics.

Via Joe My God.


Give a Gift of Privacy 0

The EFF runs down its Christmas list of the creepiest privacy-invading tech gadgets of the season. (Natch, something from the Zuckerborg is at the top of the list.)

Read it and, as we would say on the railroad, be governed accordingly.


Facebook Frolics 0

Photo phrolics.

Rule of Thumb:

Remember, “Facebook” and “privacy” are mutually exclusive.


Our New Robocalling Overlords 0


Unlike Farron’s guest, I do not wonder how Facebook got persons’ cell phone numbers.

If someone installs the Facebook app on their “smart” phone, it will scarf up everything it finds; it’s in the terms of service that no one ever reads.


Geeking Out 0

Slackware 14.2 with the Fluxbox window manager, the GKrellM system monitor, xclock, and xsnow.



Heeee’s Back 0

Well, that was fun.

The connectivity issue seems to have gone away on its own and you can’t troubleshoot something that’s not there. One of the truisms of troubleshooting is that intermittent problems are the hardest to track down.

It seems to have been what one tech I met in a previous incarnation called an “FM” problem. If he was at a customer site and the issue he was called to fix mysteriously went away and if the customer asked what it was, he would say, “Oh, that was an FM problem” and hastily make his escape (“FM” loosely translated means “freaking magic”).

The other problem I was dealing with had to do with the new version of WordPress. WP changed the default editor and, since I “upgraded” my WordPress late last Thursday, I have been unable to publish or revise posts. Clicking to publish or update resulted in a “Publishing (Updating) failed” error.

I found the solution at the WordPress support forums. The one I selected was to install the “Classic Editor” plugin, which worked for me because it was quicker than calling my hosting provider to find out how to enable wp-json and I didn’t like that gol-darned newmangled editor anyway.

Now I’m going to run off to recuperate from being in Geek Purgatory for the weekend.

And another H/T to Shaun Mullen for his assistance in working this out.


Other things I tried, for the troubleshooters out there, included trying multiple browsers; disabling plugins one at a time and trying to post (this excellent suggestion came from a support rep at my hosting provider, as several of the plugins I use have to do with editing; it didn’t fix the problem, but it was still an excellent suggestion, as troubleshooting consists of ruling things out to narrow the list of suspects); and changing to one of the default themes provided by WordPress.


Spreading the Sepsis 0

At Psychology Today Blogs, Mike Wood explores how “social” media propagate misinformation and lies. A snippet:

This ecosystem consists of a variety of people and organisations that cultivate large followings on social media. Through sharing and cross-promotion, they amplify and spread bits of information that fit their particular worldview without fact-checking or basic due diligence. The actors that engage in this kind of practice create a massive, decentralized web of misinformation, one that traditional sources of news are hard-pressed to counteract.


Facebook Frolics 0

Woman:  If you're so upset that your personal data was given to advertisers, then quit Facebook!  Man:  And give up seeing boring vacation videos, infuriating political comments, and stupid cat videos?

Click for the original image.


Down at the Farm 0

Earlier this evening, I got the dreaded “Error connecting to database” error.

I logged into my account at my most excellent hosting provider, navigated to my VPS, went to cpanel, opened phpMyAdmin, and ran a check, repair, and optimize on my MySQL database, and all was well again (at least until the next time}.

Electrons are troublesome things.