Somewhat dumb credit card region lock

June 16th, 2016

Visa has a neat feature where you can determine in which regions the card can be used. In my case, it’s “internet”, “Sweden”, “Nordic countries”, “Europe”, “North and central America”, “South America”, “Africa”, “Asia”, “Oceania”. You can set these through the credit card app (mine is from Volvo, of course).

So I disabled all regions except “Internet” and “Sweden”, planning on enabling other regions when I travel. 

Today I got a message from Netflix that they couldn’t charge my card. No explanation why. I called the card issuer and after some digging they explained to me that since I disabled “Europe”, Netflix got refused. Turns out that Netflix charges from region “Europe”, not “Internet”. More specifically from The Netherlands. Once I reenabled “Europe”, the charge went through.

Now, there are several problems with this. First of all, an internet based service like Netflix should be in the region “Internet”. Secondly, if it isn’t in “Internet”, they should at the very least tell us from which region they charge. I had no idea Netflix charges from The Netherlands. How could I? It’s not reasonable to expect us to check with the card issuer every time this happens, and have them go dig through logs (took them 10 minutes to find, so it wasn’t trivial).

Worst of all, this kind of thing implies that you’d better open up a lot of regions you’re not travelling to, since you don’t know from which regions different internet based companies do their charging.

Having the card processor issue meaningful error messages, not just “sorry we failed”, would definitely help a lot, too.

Now I hate Microsoft even more, part II

June 10th, 2016

Started my Win 10 instance under Parallels, and just one minute into working with it, I got this:

Parallels DesktopScreenSnapz095

That gave me 8 minutes to get my stuff in order. The time when this showed up was 21:18. So I clicked “Close” and just got the close box on my accounting program and the system rebooted. So much for the eight minutes, which turned into more like 10 seconds.

Note, BTW, no way to postpone this at all. Nothing.

The evil and arrogant fuckers.

Oh, lest you think Microsoft really let me save correctly, I got this after restart from my accounting program:

Parallels DesktopScreenSnapz096

It says, in Swedish: “The company wasn’t closed correctly. The company will now be optimized.” Meaning the index files will be rebuilt. 

Microsoft really doesn’t give a shit about our data. Fortunately, I hadn’t started entering anything so the rebuild worked out fine.

Sabotage for the office

June 10th, 2016

Interesting manual on sabotage from the CIA. The last five pages describe some offices I’ve worked in.

Apple quality control needs work

June 4th, 2016

Just wasted several hours trying to find out why home sharing stopped working on my Apple TV. I’ve got the one with optical audio output, can’t remember if that is called the gen 2 or 3, but you know which one I mean.

Duck-ducked it thoroughly, finding a truckload of similar complaints over the last two years, which in itself wasn’t too encouraging. Most recommended logging out and in from home sharing, changing the computer name in system settings, and so on. Nothing helped.

Finally I changed the wireless from my very current tower Airport Extreme to a slightly older, flat square, Airport Extreme, and lo, all the misery resolved itself. Which reminded me that the Extreme did an update maybe two days ago.

I’m getting increasingly bad vibes about Apple quality, or lack thereof. 

This is why the internet is so slow

May 22nd, 2016

Got an html file from someone who created it with MS Office. In a browser, it shows one line of text. In the source, it’s 759 lines of html.

Jeez…

Now I hate Microsoft even more

April 17th, 2016

Went to start up my iMac to Bootcamp Windows 10. This is what happened:

IMG 2783

No question if I wanted to upgrade, no warning, no option to cancel, no effing nothing. What a total dick move. After 10 minutes, it has gotten to 10%, so if this goes on at the same rate, I’m looking at between one and two hours of this. Interrupting it probably bombs the whole thing. MS effectively hijacked the machine without my permission. I had something I wanted to do, but MS clearly doesn’t give a flying shit about that. If they’d done this at shutdown, I could have, maybe, somehow, a little bit, lived with it. But at startup? Are they completely out of their minds?

And, if you wonder, this is a paid full version of Windows 10, not the free upgrade kind.

I wonder what this huge update is for. No idea. Windows 95?

Update: it took a total of around 50 minutes, then another 10 minutes to update Apple’s Bootcamp video driver. The “copying of files” took about 30 minutes of that time, which probably corresponds to downloading time. Why doesn’t Windows download this stuff beforehand? 

All this on a 20 Mbit/s download ADSL and on a pretty darn fast machine (i7, 4GHz, 16 GB RAM, and a 1TB SSD). What this would be on an average machine, I can only have nightmares about.

Horrible little law

April 15th, 2016

Feinstein-Burr senate bill, it’s getting crazier by the day:

No, this slippery little act says that when a company or person gets a court order asking for encrypted emails or files to be handed over and decrypted, compliance is the law.

How compliance actually happens isn’t specified. They don’t care how user security was broken (or if it were nonexistent), and the senators are making it clear that from now on, this isn’t their problem.

Being a werewolf

April 9th, 2016

Very interesting game with implications for understanding of secure protocols and compromise detection.

Geoblocking your pastries

April 7th, 2016

If geoblocking was done on Main street… hilarious.

Enemy number one

March 24th, 2016

The US gov is quickly turning into corporate threat number one:

Apple has long suspected that servers it ordered from the traditional supply chain were intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

If this is really the case, if the US govt is tapping servers like this at any significant scale, then having Apple implementing encryption end-to-end in most of their products must mean that the govt is losing a hell of a lot more data catches than just the data they could get with a warrant. 

The ability to recover data with a warrant is then just a marginal thing. The real problem is that their illegal taps stop working. Which means that the FBI case is a sham on a deeper level than it appears. The real panic is then about the server compromises failing. 

And, of course, the end-to-end encryption with no keys server-side is also the solution for Apple. Implants in the servers then have relatively little impact, at least on their customers. The server-to-client communications (SSL) would be compromised, but not the content of the messages inside.

If the govt loses this battle, which I’m pretty sure they will, the next frontier must be the client devices. Not just targeted client devices, which can already be compromised in hardware and software, but we’re talking massive compromises of *all* devices. Having modifications in the chips and firmware of every device coming off the production lines. Anything less than this would mean “going dark” as seen from the pathological viewpoint of the government.

Interestingly, Apple has always tended to try to own their primary technologies, for all kinds of reasons. This is one reason more. As they’re practically the only company in a position to achieve that, to own their designs, their foundries, their assembly lines, with the right technology they could become the only trustworthy vendor of client devices in the world. No, they don’t own their foundries or assembly lines yet, but they could.

If this threat becomes real, or maybe is real already, a whole new set of technologies are needed to verify the integrity of designs, chips, boards, packaging, and software. That in itself will change the market significantly.

The opportunity of taking the high road to protect their customers against all evildoers, including their own governments, *and* finding themselves in almost a monopoly situation when it comes to privacy at the same time, is breathtaking. So breathtaking, in fact, that it would, in extremis, make a move of the whole corporation out of the US to some island somewhere not seem so farfetched at all. Almost reasonable, in fact.

Apple could become the first corporate state. They would need an army, though.

As a PS… maybe someone could calculate the cost to the USA of all this happening? 

Even the briefest of cost/benefit calculations as seen from the government’s viewpoint leads one to the conclusion that the leadership of Apple is the most vulnerable target. There is now every incentive for the government to have them replaced by more government-friendly people.

I can think of: smear campaigns, “accidents”, and even buying up of a majority share in Apple through strawmen and have another board elected.

Number one, defending against smear campaigns, could partly explain the proactive “coming out” of Tim Cook.

After having come to the conclusion that the US govt has a definite interest in decapitating Apple, one has to realize this will only work if the culture of resistance to the government is limited to the very top. If eliminating Tim Cook would lead to an organisation more amenable to the wishes of the government.

From this, it’s easy to see that Apple needs to ensure that this culture of resistance, this culture of fighting for privacy, is pervasive in the organisation. Only if they can make that happen, and make it clear to outsiders that it is pervasive, only then will it become unlikely that the government will try, one way or the other, to get Tim Cook replaced.

Interestingly, only the last week, a number of important but unnamed engineers at Apple have talked to news organisations, telling them that they’d rather quit than help enforce any court orders against Apple in this dispute. This coordinated leak makes a lot more sense to me now. It’s a message that makes clear that replacing Tim Cook, or even the whole executive gang, may not get the govt what it wants, anyway.

I’m sure Apple is internally making as sure as it possibly can that the leadership cadre is all on the same page. And that the government gets to realize that before they do something stupid (again).