Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Yet another post about stupid Operating Systems

Here's an interesting take on just how bad our reliance on stupid operating systems has made things... it could happen any day now.
The thing that continues to drive me crazy about this is that while all this stuff is possible, becoming probable over time, it doesn't have to be this way. No amount of "cybersecurity" in the world can fix the actual root cause... our Operating Systems are stupid... they require you to trust any program you run, and don't offer any tools to limit the scope of what a program can do.
Imagine the power grid with no circuit breakers what so ever... this is what Windows, MacOS, Linux etc all do, as well as all the embedded Internet of Things devices we're buying by the millions. They blindly trust every line of code you tell them to run, or that they auto-run when you insert a USB stick, etc.
Operating Systems exist (but are not mainstream), like Genode (which I still don't have running on my laptop... any year now....grrrr), which offer a way do securely run things, the key to this magic non-stupid OS?.... it simply asks which files you want to let a program use, and never blindly trusts anything. The thing doesn't have to be any less user friendly either... Word could just use the file you chose, instead of asking you and doing it itself.
I figure about 10 more years until this type of OS goes mainstream... I keep mentioning it every chance I get... a low level PR campaign to fix cybersecurity for once and for all.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why we won't have a truly open web before we get good Operating Systems

I know my views aren't mainstream, but I think the big reason we're all deciding which walled gardens to visit has to do with security. Even if you assume your http connections to others don't get attacked, would you really trust a random video from a site like warot.com?

I wouldn't... why should you?   Your operating system trusts everything you tell it to run, completely. Your web browsers pretty much do the same thing, which means you have to trust the site, and small sites have no reputation, nor is it easy to build... which means even though everyone could connect to you, they won't... there is a significant barrier to entry, because of your Operating System.

If you had an OS that wasn't so trusting, it wouldn't matter if the browser got hacked, because it couldn't take out your system.  If you're old enough, think back to the days of MS-DOS on dual floppy computer systems.  Your OS disk was backed up, with an exact bootable copy, and write protected. You had nothing to lose when you tried out the latest shareware floppy disk that someone handed to you.  Only when we get reasonable Operating Systems, about 10 years from now, will we once again be able to freely explore the internet.

(Why 10 years from now?  Because 10 years ago I guessed it was 20 years, and now Genode exists, so progress is being made, though not in the mainstream, yet)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Doing interesting Astrophysics, with lathes, electron microscopes, and old water heaters.

I think that it's possible to do some novel, leading edge astrophysics with lathes, old water heaters, and electron microscopes... here's how.

There is some debate about the existence and nature of micro black holes, which if they exist, and don't immediately swallow up the nearest planet, might be able to pass through us, and earth, without doing much immediately noticeable harm. They would be small, microscopically small, and perhaps leave a whole just barely visible to an electron microscope through anything, including the earth.

So, if we were to take a large heavy steel object, such as the tank of an old water heater, there would be a non-zero chance that it had been the target of such an event. Strip the tank of its insulation and plumbing, and chuck it in a large lathe... turn the outside surface smooth, then grind it smooth enough to see the grain boundaries in the steel... and then scan the entire surface... you'd get a lot of noise because of said boundaries, etc.... then grind off a few more atoms, and scan it again... you could match and eliminate most things, while looking for holes in the same general place (but offset a bit of angle)... a few passes through and you should be able to find any evidence.

If not, chuck the scrap, and try again.

There you go, a leading edge astrophysics experiment you could do at home, if you have a lathe, surface grinder, electron microscope, some compute power, and a supply of old water heaters.  8-)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trump sucks, but Hillary sucks more.

I don't understand what the deal is with whistling for dogs... as I'm a cat person. ;-) I'm sick and tired of being told I'm racist... I know I'm racist, sexist, and all sorts of other stupid, especially when angry... but that doesn't mean my decision is motivated by it.... I try REALLY hard to avoid that type of stupid thinking.

Trump is by no means a person I want to vote for, but faced with Hillary as an alternative, I'll do it. She's a known war hawk, and liar, and in the pocket of wall street. She's the increasingly unacceptable status quo, incarnate.

The continued push for an American Empire, run by megacorps, for megacorps, means that in short order we're going to have to take on Russia or China in WWIII, and I'm sure Hillary would be willing to give that order, if the polls said it was the thing to do, and Wall Street approved.

Hillary also represents (this week, unless the polls or her sponsors have changed her mind), the interests of the Salary class, and not those of working class people. We're going to need a ton of support as automation kills off the jobs we used to have to pay the bills.

Eventually, some sort of Universal income needs to happen, or the result is more than 1/2 of the population will be "useless", and un-employable at any living wage. Hillary won't care about that.

Of course, if by some miracle, Bernie manages to make it passed the outright favoritism of the DNC, and get the nomination, I'll be a much, MUCH happier camper.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

So you think you know how to secure IT systems...

A comment I posted to /.

You've got a lot of hard won experience, I'll give you that... but the problem is a whole new layer, deeper than you're used to thinking about. Imagine if you built a old style fort, moved your troops in, and generally felt secure.... only to find out the bricks it was built out of were actually blocks of C4, and any one of them could send the whole place up in a flash.
If you can imagine that scenario... you know what computer security is really like, no matter how careful you are. Because Windows, Mac-OS, Linux, and pretty much every non-mainframe OS out there runs every line of code with the full privileges of a user account at all times, there's no way for a user to limit the scope of what a program does at run time.
The solution is to use an operating system that is designed from the ground up to simply ask which files the user wishes to operate on, instead of blindly trusting the program to do the right thing. This makes it possible for the user to limit side effects by design, which then makes it possible to have end nodes that are reasonably secure... which makes it possible to have real security.
I still don't see the change to things like Genode happening for at least 10 more years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Internet of Garbage

As an old white guy, I keep having my worldview shifted by people who tell me things that I hadn't noticed because my world was primarily engineered by old white guys... this is yet another example of some wisdom from a non-old, non-white, non-guy

Here's Sarah Jeong on The Internet of Garbage. She's smart, and has several good points to make.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dreaming of a new social network

I've got an idea that I'll try to make coherent enough for someone else to get the gist of...

I want to be able to post photos, messages, and other personal stuff to a site that I pay for the hosting of, which can only be read by certain people. I'd like to offer them the ability to have their own accounts and do likewise. Bonus points for making it possible for them to download and move their stuff later if they so desire.

Facebook does most of these things, if you are willing to ignore all the downsides of being a resource for advertisers to mine, and governments to spy on, and hackers to breach, instead of being their customer.

I'm thinking of coding up something based on a bedrock of capability based security, with layers of filtering restricting authority on each layer to the user.

A private version of facebook, which can be shared... it shouldn't cost much... unless someone goes wild posting video and sucking up server space.  I'd guess $5/month or less.

What do you folks think?

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