Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More developments about Vox Media and Project X, and it looks interesting

Both Ezra Klein and now Timothy B. Lee, well known policy and tech bloggers for the Washington Post, are moving over to Vox Media, which I commented about on Feb. 12. 
    
I’m trying to figure out what this company will do.  It is said to be a technology company that can report news content.  Well, so is CNN.  But it is probably focused just on the reporting, not on putting boots on the ground in dangerous foreign countries.  Let me add that I admire the way Anderson Cooper has consistently “paid his dues” (wading in hurricane-caused floods in Texas the day before the 2008 financial crisis broke). 
    
The company appears to have content streams in specific subject matter areas, at least six of them, roughly analogous to the way I have 16 blogs on Blogger.  Some of these areas are consumer-oriented.  It appears that with “Project X” it will become more news oriented, and be able to compete with large media companies for big sponsors for advertising revenue.  No, it won’t get the kind of money the Super Bowl or Olympics can bring.
     
The other trick will be to link the different subject areas together so that visitors can navigate through the history of some big issue.  That sort of issue is what I face.  It’s easy to link together everything in one blog, but cleanly crossing them could require some nifty database (MySQL) setup and scripting. 
  
The Atlantic has a story on how Project X will work.  I’ll pass along the link now, but I confess I’ll have to come back to the details myself later.  Maybe “PX” could be useful in doing an “opposing viewpoints” database, which I have worked on in the past (was going to do it in java until the hosting company I had – Java starter – fell apart in 2006). 
    
I did find an interesting story last night on a new “Inception” board game, related to the movie (without objections from WB) on another component site, “The Verge”. (At ING, about a particular batch job back before 2001, we used to say “The merge-purge has no urge”  But The Verge does.).  Watch the video here, please.  Is this like chess? 
   
I’ll pick this up again soon, probably on the “main” of my own 16 blogs.   


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Apple, Microsoft, Google all face big system testing issues to make sure their code doesn't have security holes or "back doors" : Columbia University article on testing

I could reasonably put this story in either the Internet Safety or IT jobs blog, but the following piece on systems testing from Columbia University in NYC shows how “bad logic” (in this case, a redundant “Goto Fail”) can leave an open back door for hackers, and also explains why it is so hard to detect in normal system or betat testing “test plans” as typically set up by system architects.  The link is here

The code is part of the TLS implementation in Apple’s iOS, an operating system for the iPhone and iPad.  I expect I’ll get a mandatory update soon for my iPad to fix it.  I have to be careful about these when I plan to take the iPad on a trip and depend on it for connectivity “on the road” (Jack Kerouac style).
  
There is a detailed blog post on the Apple bug by Adam Langley here. ("Imperial Violet"). 
  
The programming languages are C, mostly Objective C, and sometimes Objective C++. Objective C is considereded an OOP (Wiipedia here).
   
At ING-ReliaStar in Minneapolis, we coded screen-emulations in C, the GUI in PowerBuilder, the Data Access Layer in Java (with data collectors and data manipulators),  the “Bridge” to the GUI in C++, and batch replications (in MVS-OS390 COBOL) from mainframe legacy systems, with some direct connect in DB2.  It turns out that the person who ran my own ISP supporting my book wrote all the Javadoc for the data access layer and it got called “Dan’s Web Site”.  In fact, everybody knew the difference between than an “Bill’s Web Site”) for the books, which was all flat HTML in those days.    

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snowden used another worker's logon: a basic no-no where I worked

The recent story that another NSA employee gave Edward Snowden his logon, and has now resigned, reminds me of IT department policy in the past.

But many accounts say that the worker trusted Snowden because he was the "IT worker" who was supposed to fix a problem.  (That reminds me of Mark Zcukerberg's infamous email, "They 'trusted; me, Dumf f___".  And a middle school math teacher didn't like it when I used the word "dumb bunny" one time.)

I started at Chilton Credit Reporting in Dallas in late 1981.  Within a month, there was a memo warning us that we were responsible for any misuse of our own passwords, even on the old CMS system (like VM) before they switched to Roscoe under MVS (in an Ahmdahl IBM emulation environment).  We were told we should log out before leaving our desks.

In the late 1980s, source management systems gave companies the ability to guarantee source-load module integrity by properly locking components as part of the elevation process.  Companies were sometimes slow to enforce the new rules until the early 90s, making them vulnerable to dishonest employees.

These sorts of problems have been around as long as there were computer shops.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Are some media outlets now looking for "generalist bloggers"? (Vox Media)

Ezra Klein, who reports on social and economic issues for the Washington Post and its Wonkblog, tweeted a job opening a Vox Media for a Features Editor, link here.   The candidate would work on “Project X” (and that reminds me of  Fox Mulder and “The X Files” – and that’s cool). 
   
What’s interesting is that the position appears to look for a news “generalists”, rather than a reporter who has great expertise in one integrated area (like technology, the budget, gay rights, sports, foreign affairs, etc). 
  
Normally such journalists are either already at the top of their field with major networks, or they’re independent bloggers.
   
This is perhaps “off topic” on the IT job market per se.  But if what they want is a “super blogger”, that’s interesting to me.  I would be inclined to think the kind of place that might look for such a person might be Huffington, for example. 
  
Most advice on blogging deals with concepts like targeted markets and expertise in specific subject matter.  I'm going to take up that question with respect to my own resume again pretty soon. 
     
By the way, the name “Vox Media” reminds me of Vox Records, a budget classical music record label back in the 1960’s.  

Note: Washington Post columnist Tim Lee suggests that Vox buy Zombo.com.


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Protests appear at Silicon Valley company buses for well-paid employees living in San Francisco

Activists are protesting. Sometimes trying to block privately chartered busses that take employees of Silicon Valley companies to work from city locations in San Francisco and Oakland.  Many of the major employers, including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple provide commuter bus service (rather like a highway train) from the cities.  And many tech employees like living in the city.
  
Since many of the employees have 100000+ salaries and stock options, they can often afford the 3000+ rents in San Francisco.  Some advocates for low income people say that the trend is driving poor people out.  But it’s remarkable that the activism would lead to attempts to block buses.
    
The San Francisco Bay Guardian has a story here
  
Rents would be less in Oakland than San Francisco itself.  When I am in the area, I usually stay East of the Bay, but near BART, because hotel rates are usually less than half of what they are “in the City”.
Frankly, gentrification, undermining subsidized rent, is happening in most cities.  In Washington DC, the U Street corridor has become a recent location for ritzy condos and apartments, like Shaw, resulting in tensions.  (The heart of the 1968 riots had occurred nearby.) The H-Street corridor, with the streetcar line, will gradually displace blight in the NE part of the city with new development, supporting jobs closer to Union Station.  Around Nationals Park and the proposed soccer stadium, slums were razed and condos were built.  Some bars and clubs closed, and some relocated to U Street, but now there is new interest in NE.  Low income people are displace to Prince Georges County, but the resulting tension contribute to brazen crime in many areas.
  
Minneapolis has always been well-developed with people living near their jobs downtown, with people living urban-style because of the climate, and so has Chicago.  But in other cities, like Cleveland and Indianapolis, I see similar trends. 
  
Yet, it’s interesting and disturbing to see activists protesting actual “middle class” workers who just happen to make more than average because of their skills and education. But I ran into the same attitude in the early 1970’s, in the days that I spied on activism, like the People’s Party of New Jersey.  Middle class professionals were seen as the enemy.  The LGBT community was always straddling the issue, siding with the Left on discrimination issues but with the libertarian right on most freedoms for progressive companies and the building of new condos and housing. 
   
Silicon Valley salaries and perks might sound generous.  But in 2001, my last year at ING, I made $72000 in Minneapolis.  In the DC area, salaries in the low 100’s are common for more highly skilled tech workers.  It is the failure of companies in countries like Russia and China to pay techies properly that has contributed to hacking as a way to make a living (or get rich) overseas.     

Wikipedia attribution link for area south of Market St, link



Update: Feb. 9

AOL has backed down on the policy of withholding the 401(k) match because of public criticism; Leslie Armstrong reports on the actions of CEO Tim Armstrong here

Saturday, February 01, 2014

"MSVCR80.dll" goes AWOL when tryiing to update iTunes in a Windows environment ; relates to "APS Daemon" and "Apple Push"

Well, I keep getting prompted to update iTunes on a Windows 7 machine.  I don’t use it there, since I have a MacBook for my music.  But yesterday I let it update, and it sat in the install for a couple hours.  I had to restart, and when it came back it said that “MSVCR80.dll” was missing (like my screenplay “Baltimore is Missing” or the idea that “Belgium Is Missing” in the short film “The Voorman Problem”). 

I fished around, and found that this is the most reliable reference on restoring it. 
It appears that the load library member is an old C++ program written in 2005.  It seems to be used by certain third party interfaces only.  It apparently passes addresses to third party software, very much like modules in a link-edit deck on the mainframe (particularly in Vantage, which still rules the world).  . 
  
The odd thing is that now Google serves me ads to replace this module, since I didn’t turn off tracking!

I get notified of the missing module when I rebook, or try to start iTunes.  Fixing it looks like work. 



Note: Later investigation shows that this dll supports the APS Daemon or "Apple Push", which is supposed to syncrhonize iTunes on multiple devices (including iPod).  It may not be needed by many users.  But there are reports of serious disruption of the computer's normal operation in some systems -- not mine, excaept that sometimes Shockwave freezes, maybe unrelated.