Demand Justice for Arron Swartz - Tell Congress: Don't Expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: Fix It!

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the law under which Aaron Swartz and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison. The CFAA is so broad that law enforcement says it criminalizes all sorts of mundane Internet use: Potentially even breaking a website's fine print terms of service agreement. Don't set up a Myspace page for your cat. Don't fudge your height on a dating site. Don't share your Facebook password with anybody: You could be committing a federal crime. (Read more here.)

It's the vagueness and over breadth of this law that allows prosecutors to go after people like Aaron Swartz, who tragically committed suicide earlier this year. The government threatened to jail him for decades for downloading academic articles from the website JSTOR.

Since Aaron's death, activists have cried out for reform of the CFAA. But members of the House Judiciary Committee are actually floating a proposal to expand and strengthen it -- that could come up for a vote as soon as April 10th! (Read more here.)

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One-sided censorship or inefficient automatic filtering?

UPDATE AT END OF POST

I took my car to Mid City Motor World (between Arcata and Eureka) this morning to have the oil changed and some other minor maintenance completed.  I have been buying Honda's from Mid City, and having my cars serviced at Mid City, for many many years and I highly recommend their sales and service. I feel that they are a very customer-oriented business. 

They also offer a lot of nice amenities for customers waiting in the lobby. There is real coffee, ground from fresh beans, real cream for the coffee, fresh bagels with cream cheese (they need a toaster), tables next to wall outlets for you to set up your laptop, and free guest WIFI.  The service writers all recognize me and they are all very professional.  They even offer to wash your car for you before they give it back!

However, this morning I had a rude shock.  I decided to wait for my car to be done, instead of using their free shuttle service and coming back later.  I set up my computer, hooked up to their Guest WiFi, and proceeded to try and read some of the local political blogs.  One pair of blogs I occasionally read (although sometimes I don't know why) is the Humboldt Herald and the Humboldt Mirror.  For those that don't frequent the cage-lining pages of these two political blogs, they are the opposite of each other,  The Herald is what I would consider strongly left of center, and the Mirror is way out in right field.  (The comment sections of each of these blogs are a petri dish of toxic waste.  It also looks like they both may be dying a slow death with no new posts for three months for the Mirror, and no posts in the last month for the Herald.)

Imagine my surprise when I opened a window for each of these two blogs, and found out that the network administrator was censoring/blocking the Humboldt Herald, but not the Humboldt Mirror.  The exact message read:

URL: http://humboldtherald.wordpress.com/

Block reason: Forbidden Category "Political/Advocacy Groups"

If you believe the below web site should not be blocked contact the System Administrator

I did what the message said, and asked the receptionist if I could talk to the System Administrator for Mid City.  A nice gentleman named "Scott" came out and explained that their system uses a blocking system from Sonicwall, their router provider, and that he just checks "categories" of blocking, the specifics of deciding what individual site(s) to block is coming from information provided by Sonicwall (Sonicwall was recently bought by Dell Computer).  

Scott thinks that the Herald may have generated more visibility on the internet and has become listed as a political site within the Sonicwall database, where the Mirror has not generated that much coverage or interest and therefore is probably simply "not rated" which will not trigger any blocks.  I asked Scott to check it out for himself and perhaps even consider not using the "political/advocacy groups" category for blocking guest access, since the Sonicwall blocking list is not filtering this category in a fair and impartial way.  

I will report back next time I am at Mid City and let you know if the situation is still the same. 

...and yes, I am a "card carrying member of the ACLU", how did you guess?  :)


Update #1

I received an update from the sys admin at Mid City, indicating that they had readjusted the firewall blocks to allow both the Mirror and the Herald through their firewall, and has submitted both to Sonicwall for re-rating.  I have not been back to test it, but I wanted to give them credit for great customer service and followthrough.  Thanks Mid City!

Below is the text of the message I received from the Sys Admin at Mid City: 
"Thank you for bringing to my attention the problem with the two web sites that you were trying to reach while having your vehicle serviced at Mid-City Motor World.  I have attached the SonicWall rating for each of the sites that you tried to reach while visiting our store.
Humboldtmirror.wordpress.com is rated as:  Information Technology/Computers and Web Communications
Humboldtherald.wordpress.com is rated as:  Political/Advocacy Groups
 
  We have adjusted the settings of the SonicWall, to allow the humboldtherald.wordpress.com.
Again thank you for bringing it to my attention and sorry for any problems that it may have caused."

Easter, Cesar Chavez, and Santa

We had a bit of a rough night.  The boy was not feeling well and we were not sure if he was going to be up to the traditional Easter Egg Hunt, family gathering, and celebration of the birthday of Cesar Chavez or not.  But he bounced back this morning, and we were back on track for our countdown to the Great Santa Easter Egg Hunt!

I should explain. My son has figured out (with my learned assistance) that if the Easter Bunny goes to every house on the same morning to hide eggs, then this bunny must have some special superhuman powers.  In fact, as we all know, the only person that has the power to visit every participating house around the world in one day is Santa.  We all also know that nobody just works one day out of the year.  My son strongly suspects that this "Easter Bunny" thing is just a costume/disguise that Santa wears while hiding eggs so he can work off-season.  He has his suspicions about the Tooth Fairy too, he says he thinks Santa has a tutu in that closet.

Anyway, to get back to my story, Logan had a two stage hunt this year.  The first part was a traditional egg hunt, providing eggs filled with jelly beans, chocolate candies, and tootsie rolls.  (including multiple easter packages with iTunes cards in them, and one with a spot of cash, that easter Santa knows what kids want!).  

Then, his sister and her fiancee, Joe, along with their friend Leeann had a clue driven hunt for him.  He had to decipher six clues, each leading to the next, to find his easter basket from her which not only had candy and treats, but two movies he has not see yet as well, Goonies, and Coraline.  I especially liked the twist on the final clue.  The basket was hidden behind Logan's iMac.  For the sixth and final clue, he had to "buy" hints from the adults using his candy as currency.  I told him his basket location would get him "all keyed up" for a tootsie roll.  His sister told him the present would be the "apple of his eye", this clue cost a chocolate.  Finally, his mom told him "once you go Mac, you never go back" for some Jelly Beans, at that point he figured it out and searched his computer desk, finding the basket!

Here are a few photos from today:



Switching from Posterous


I have made the switch from the soon to be defunct Posterous, to the new Post Haven blog hosting service for my personal blog.

I was somewhat reluctant to move at first, when you are getting a great service for free, there is a certain amount of inertia to overcome in making the switch to a paid service.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in paying people for their work.  However, when you have been getting something free for years, it takes a certain amount of mental gymnastics to make the switch to a paid service.  (hey, I am talking BLOGS here ok?)  :)

It is also not always successful.  As twitter has changed (and not for the better) I tried really hard to like the paid alternative service, app.net.  I paid for an app.net account, and tried to make some new relationships in that paid alternative to twitter, but it just did not work for me.  App.net seems to be a very closed club of developer types that have their own cultural reality, it just did not replace twitter for me.  So, despite all the things I DONT LIKE about twitter, (including cutting out APIs and third party developers, sponsored ad tweets, changes to the format, etc), I still use Twitter.

However, I think I am going to have a very different reaction to my switch from Posterous to Posthaven.  The import of my Posterous blog seems to have gone without a hitch.  Everything moved, even the comments.  I am looking forward to all the features that the developers are committed to adding to this service, and growing my blog with them as they continue to refine and improve their interface.  I really like the idea that even if I quit paying for the editing service, the blog archive STAYS UP, and I can start paying again anytime I need to edit.

I don't have the time, energy, or patience for Wordpress.  I want and need a KISS principle blogging platform.  While $60/year is a fair amount of scratch in internet terms, I think I may be here for a while!


Safari 6 (Mountain Lion 10.8.2), Click to Plugin, and Youtube problems.

Another problem, another solution.

Youtube videos REFUSED to play in Safari 6 on my Mac, but played fine in Chrome.  Did some digging on the 'net, and found a forum support note that said my "Click to Plugin" extension for Safari might need an update to version 2.7+ (I was on version 2.6)

I downloaded/installed the update from Macupdate:

...and now Youtube videos in Safari play just fine.

If you don't know what "Click to Plugin is, and wonder why I have it installed in the first place, you can read about it on the Macupdate link, above, or just google it!  :)

Apple Mail and Spotlight search issues and Time Machine problems

I have been having some weird problems on my new retina MacBook Pro with Mountain Lion 10.8.2.

First, Time Machine backups slowed way down and eventually quit working, then my email started being unsearchable, and finally Spotlight itself appeared to simply quit working.

After much investigation, I believe that not only did Spotlight corrupt the search index, it also corrupted Apple Mail and Time Machine.  I had to fix ALL THREE to make things work right again.  I went through several steps to rectify this, which I thought I would document here.

Here is what I did to fix the issue for me.

First, in Apple Mail I did the following (hat tip to Glenn Leblanc for this tip, posted here:  https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3888378?start=0&tstart=0 )

Quit Mail.

Go to the Home Library folder. This is hidden in Lion. To get to it, select GO in the Finder menu while holding the option key down. Select Library in the submenu. Then navigate to Mail folder/ V2 Folder/ MailData folder. Find the Envelope Index Files. Move just those files to the desktop or trash and restart Mail. Select continue in the message box that comes up. The rebuild could take a while depending on how many messages you have.

This resulted in being able to search for contacts, and subjects again in Mail, but whole message searches (body text) still did not work.

Then, I tried to force Spotlight to reindex by following the traditional route:

System Prefs > Spotlight > Privacy Tab

Add your startup hard drive to the “prevent Spotlight from searching these locations” list (use the “+” symbol at bottom)

Close and reopen System Prefs

Remove your startup hard drive from the same list using the adjacent “-“ symbol 

This did NOT work for me.  When I would check the Spotlight popup from the right side of the main top menu bar, no indexing activity was shown. 

Then, I tried a Terminal command to force reindexing (Applications folder > Utilities Folder > Terminal app) as documented here:

http://jonathansblog.co.uk/how-to-force-spotlight-to-reindex

sudo mdutil -E /

I got back a cryptic message that stated “indexing is disabled” (this would account for why I was still unable to do context search of mail messages)

I found this link and implemented “Solution 2” using another terminal command to re-enable indexing:

http://www.ngpixel.com/2011/06/25/mac-app-store-you-have-updates-available-for-the-other-accounts-bug/

sudo mdutil -i on /

This started Spotlight indexing again, which was verified by checking the Spotlight search box on the main menu bar again, and seeing the “thermometer bar” indicating indexing in progress.

After the indexing was completed, I formatted the Time Machine external backup hard disk drive, and started a new Time Machine backup.  The backup performed a 40 GB backup via USB 3 in less than one hour.

It appears that I am now back up and running, able to search Apple Mail, do normal backups, and use Spotlight in the Finder. I hope it stays fixed! I will post any updates, good or bad, here.

________________________

Update 11/5/2012

Time Machine bogged down again, slowed to a crawl.  I read another tip on how to fix this issue via posts by others folks here:

https://discussions.apple.com/message/19316035#19316035

This is another terminal command and can be summarized as follows:

 

How to run tmdiagnose

 

 

1) Launch Terminal.app (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app)

 

2) Enter the command text below followed by the Return key on the Terminal command line:

 

sudo tmdiagnose

 

 

3) Enter your admin password when prompted and wait for all of the tmdiagnose processes to finish.

 

 

I did this, and then hooked up my backup drive and ran Time Machine - it backed up 3 GB in a few minutes over my USB 3.0 connection.

 

Hope it stays fixed this time!

 

_____________________________

 

Update 1/7/2013

 

Still broken! :(  Time Machine will work for a time or two and then go back to it' old slow sluggish, freezing self.  Not happy.  This has been going on for months with no fix from Apple.  I am trying a tmdiagnose, as described above, to see if I can get it to work even temporarily again.

 

Security video of vandal putting glue in exterior door locks at work

Early this morning someone squeezed "glue" into several of the locks of the exterior doors of the Carson Block Building on 3rd and F Street in Old Town Eureka (based on security footage, we believe it occurred at 4:56am on June 9th, 2012).  We were told by Eureka PD that we were not the only building hit.  

We have posted the security camera video on Youtube.  (it is a little clearer on the security system monitor in our office, but not much).

If you can help identify the individual in this video, please contact the Northern California Indian Development Council, and/or the Eureka PD.  

Also, if your local building was vandalized in a similar fashion during the same time period, please let us know.  

Greg Gehr
Assistant Director
Northern California Indian Development Council, Inc.
241 F Street
Eureka, CA 95501

707.445.8451 v
707.445.8479 f

Apprentice Geek - Hardware 101

Logan has cracked his first iMac.  The hard drive in his early 2008 iMac (2.8 Intel Core 2 Duo, EMC 2211, 8,1) was going bad, and 2 GB of RAM was getting cramped.  So, he undertook a hard drive and RAM replacement project.

We ordered a matched set of 2GB RAM strips and a 1 TB enterprise class hard drive from OWC. We got the glass removal suction cups on sale from Harbor Freight.  I already owned the Torx drivers and other tools.  Susan had the Spudger.  

We watched this video, and looked at this guide for instructions while we did the deed.

Logan took responsibility for most of the jobs, except when it came to the naked LCD panel removal, that one he left for me.  

The operation was a success, the iMac fired up, Logan held down the C key and started from a system CD, and breezed through a system install (10.6).  Migrated all his stuff from his Time Machine backup (three cheers for Time Machine!) as part of the 10.6 install, and he is up and running.

Not bad for a just-turned-six-year-old. 

AT&T Adventures - Unlocking my old iPhone 3GS

photo credit

According to a communication sent to Macworld, as of April 8th, AT&T will unlock any iPhone meeting certain conditions.  "The only requirements are that a customer’s account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.”  So in other words, if you complete your contract, or pay off the contract with the early termination fee, they will unlock your iPhone for use on any network.  No "jailbreaking" necessary.

I have an old iPhone 3GS from a completed two year contract, that has now been replaced by an iPhone 4S.  I decided to take advantage of unlocking the old iPhone while AT&T is in the mood to do so, and before they change their policies/mind.  I called the local AT&T store where I bought both iPhones (the nearest Apple store is several hundred miles away), and asked what the process was.  The answer stunned me, they didn't know.  They speculated that I would get a code to enter into some secret box on the iPhone to unlock it (not true).  The very friendly salesperson at the AT&T store told me that to get the actual info I wanted, I would have to call AT&T support on the phone, and ask them what the procedure was for unlocking an eligible iPhone. The local salesperson even gave me his email address and asked that I let him know what the process was, so he could tell others in the future!  (I am emailing him the link to this blog post.)  He went on to recommend I just call 611 on my current iPhone, putting me in touch with AT&T support, and ask them to walk me through it.

Taking his advice, I called 611 on my current iPhone, and spent about a minute fishing through some of the automated phone attendant choices, found nothing that applied to my situation, and then I started repeatedly stabbing "0."  Amazingly enough, this worked!  I got a very nice AT&T phone support tech in less than 3 minutes who told me that she knew about the new unlocking process, and asked me to hold for a minute while she pulled up the procedure for starting the process.  First, she wanted the IMEI number for my old iPhone 3GS.  Fortunately, the old phone was charged and booted, so I just went to Settings > General > About, scrolled down to the IMEI number, and read it to her.  

She then verified my identity with a couple of account details including my home zip and last four digits of my Social Security number.  She also wanted me to formally state the reason I wanted to unlock the old iPhone.  I think she typed my answer into her computer.  I simply told her that it was in anticipation of future international travel, and that with the unlocked phone, I would be able to purchase a local carrier sim card that would work in the unlocked iPhone in whatever country I was visiting.  She typed that up and told me that "was a legitimate reason" for my request, and moved on.  (what would she have done if I told her I was just doing it because I could? I guess I will never know.)

After this process was over, she transferred me to a higher level tech that was going to complete the process.  There was no wait, this second tier tech came right on the phone.  The second tier tech made me confirm all the data that I told the initial operator, (she did apologize for the redundancy, but said that policy required her to verify everything).  Then she told me that she had entered the unlock authorization for my iPhone.

This was confusing at first, but she explained that to complete the process, and have my iPhone receive the unlock code, I would have to back up the old iPhone via iTunes, then do a restore to original settings in iTunes, which would wipe the iPhone and reinstall the iOS, with the unlock code imbedded in it.  I would get a notification that the iPhone was now unlocked when I completed the process.  iTunes would have to have a good internet connection for all this to work.

I did as instructed, and it worked perfectly.  One caveat when you do the restore, if you are not at the current version of iOS, it will pretty much force you to upgrade whether you want to or not.   This was of some concern to me as I did not know if iOS 5.1.1 would bog down the old iPhone 3GS.  Sometimes it is better to stay at the older system with older hardware.  In this case, that does not seem to be true, if anything, I think the 5.1.1 upgrade improved the operation of the phone with snappier responses to loading apps and doing tasks.  There may be a way to circumvent this "mandatory upgrade" with SHSH blobs and downgrading and such, but that just makes my head hurt and I'm glad I didn't have to deal with it!

The last thing the AT&T tech asked for was my best contact number, she said that they would be doing a followup call to see if I was able to successfully complete the process as part of their customer service.  

This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  It appears that AT&T does not control the actual unlocking.  I am speculating that they simply send an authorization for unlocking to Apple, and that Apple is totally responsible for the actual unlocking process during the restore in iTunes.  If In fact, since AT&T is planning on calling me back in a couple of days to see how it went, I don't think they even know when I complete the unlocking (i.e. AT&T must have no direct access to Apple's system, they have to physically ask me if unlocking was competed successfully.)  On the other hand, I guess Apple knows exactly what I am doing, even when I am restoring an iPhone that no longer has a voice, text, or data plan.

Now, what exotic international destination shall I visit with my newly unlocked iPhone? Recommendations?