The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Articles to read while waiting for my next online meeting

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their respective Illinois primary elections yesterday. And in other news:

Time to write some documentation. Whee.

Freakin' NuGet

While I'm going through a boring cycle of NuGet updates, unit tests, and inexplicable app-publishing failures related to the above, I'm piling up a crapload of articles to read on my flight tomorrow:

Back to work. At least my build is succeeding now.

Apple refuses order to cripple its products

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym yesterday ordered Apple, Inc., to bypass security on the iPhone 5c owned by the San Bernadino shooters. Apple said no:

In his statement, [Apple CEO Tim] Cook called the court order an “unprecedented step” by the federal government. “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand,” he wrote.

“The F.B.I. may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a back door,” Mr. Cook wrote. “And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends digital rights, said it was siding with Apple.

“The government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone,” it said Tuesday evening. “And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”

This reminds me of the incremental logic of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, where every choice the characters make along the way seems like the right thing to do at the time, if you skip the inconvenient implications of it.

The President's gadget

President Obama and I have the same fitness tracker. His, however, has some customizations:

What counts as must-have features for many people — high-definition cameras, powerful microphones, cloud-connected wireless radios and precise GPS location transmitters — are potential threats when the leader of the free world wants to carry them around.

And so using the latest devices means more than merely ordering one on Amazon for delivery to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It means accepting the compromises imposed by White House technology experts, whose mission is to secure the president’s communications, and by the Secret Service agents who protect him.

He has not given up, though. Mr. Obama is the first commander in chief to regularly carry a specially secured BlackBerry. He reads briefings and checks scores from ESPN on an iPad (the first of which was given to him by Steve Jobs before its public release). And recently he has been seen wearing the Fitbit Surge, a fitness band packed with all the latest technology, on his left wrist.

The article goes on to speculate (because neither the Secret Service nor Fitbit will comment on presidential security) just which features, exactly, they've removed. And my friend request has so far gone unanswered...

Good news for Illinois travelers

The Dept of Homeland Security says we can still use our drivers licenses at airports until 2018:

The shift gives breathing room to Illinois, which had expected its driver's licenses and IDs to be inadequate for air travel, including domestic flights, as early as this spring.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last fall declined to give Illinois a third deadline extension for meeting the Real ID Act standards put into place in 2005. As a result, it was expected that Illinois travelers by the middle of this year would need to present a passport or be subject to extra security checks unless Illinois was able to get another extension for compliance.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White still plans to seek another compliance extension, said spokesman David Druker. Also, White's staff is talking with members of the General Assembly about potential legislation to fund the changes necessary to bring the state's ID cards up to the federal standards.

The cost for that effort is estimated at $50 million to $60 million. The costs, as well as concerns about protecting individual privacy, have been stumbling blocks so far.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State's office can't even mail out reminders to drivers to renew their vehicle registrations, because governor Bruce Rauner doesn't want to pay taxes.

And it's -10°C today. Moan moan moan.

Getting shafted by fantasy sports

The New York Times Magazine has an in-depth analysis of the daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry. I'm not that interested in fantasy sports, but this article had me riveted:

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you run D.F.S. Site A, and D.F.S Site B has just announced a weekly megacontest in which first place will take home $1 million. Now you have to find a way to host a comparable contest, or all your customers will flee to Site B to chase that seven-figure jackpot. The problem is that you have only 25,000 users, and the most you can charge them to enter is $20 per game (anything higher is prohibitively expensive). And you’ll need $2 million or even $3 million in a prize pool if first prize is valued at $1 million (remember, you still have to pay second place, third place and beyond). So you need to somehow quadruple the number of entries. But how? You’re already paying high cost-per-acquisition fees to sites like RotoGrinders, which charge, according to Harber, anywhere between $100 and $200 per person they refer to your site, and you’ve already put your logo on every bus, trash can and ESPN screaming-heads show out there. You’ve also kicked in some of your own money (known as “overlay”) to spice up the pot.

The solution is simple: You let each contestant enter hundreds of times. But even given this freedom, a majority of people will enter only a few more times, which will help but probably won’t get you all you need. If, however, you can attract a few high rollers who are willing to book several hundred or even several thousand entries apiece, the path to the $1 million first prize becomes a lot more manageable. And as long as you can make sure those players keep pouring in their thousands of entries, you can keep posting the $1 million first prize all over your ads.

In the game lobbies of DraftKings and FanDuel, however, sharks are free to flood the marketplace with thousands of entries every day, luring inexperienced, bad players into games in which they are at a sizable disadvantage. The imbalanced winnings in D.F.S. have been an open secret since this past September, when Bloomberg Businessweek published an exposé on the habits of high-volume players. The numbers are damning. According to DraftKings data obtained by the New York State attorney general’s office, between 2013 and 2014, 89.3 percent of players had a negative return on investment. A recent McKinsey study showed that in the first half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, 91 percent of the prize money was won by a mere 1.3 percent of the players.

So, how is this at all fun to casual players? Someone explain it to me.


Things I can waste time with today

Since my company is closed today, and I have no obligations until late this afternoon, I'm taking my time fixing a bug and deploying a software package. So I actually have the bandwidth to read these articles right now, as opposed to "someday:"

I do have to fix this bug, though. Better get back to it now.

Three things to read today

First, the New Republic's Jeet Heer reminds us that Donald Trump is a bullshitter, not a liar, and is that much more dangerous for it:

The triumph of bullshit has consequences far beyond the political realm, making society as a whole more credulous and willing to accept all sorts of irrational beliefs. A newly published article in the academic journal Judgment and Decision Making
links “bullshit receptivity” to other forms of impaired thinking: “Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.” 

It’s no accident that Trump himself is receptive to bullshit ideas promulgated by the likes of anti-vaxxers. A President Trump, based on his own bullshit receptivity and his own bullshit contagiousness, would lead a country that is far more conspiratorial, far more confused, and far less able to grapple with problems in a rational way. Trump’s America would truly be a nation swimming in bullshit.

Next, a heartwarming story of how LifeLock allowed a man to set up an account to stalk his ex-wife, and then did nothing when she complained:

Not only did the company not respond to her queries about the situation, she tells the Republic that LifeLock actively tried to block her access to the account — in order to protect the privacy of her ex-husband.

While she was able to block her ex from having access to the service, he was still able to close the account because he was the one who had paid for it. Rather than help her by providing the requested documents or keeping the account open, LifeLock advised that she open an entirely new account.

Finally, from Cranky Flier, the account of the last airplane to roll off an assembly line in California, ending a 102-year-old industry there:

As aircraft manufacturing dried up around the state, Long Beach became the last holdout. When Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas, the entire Douglas commercial line was terminated in short order except for the MD-95. That became the Boeing 717 and made it all the way to May 23, 2006. On that day, the last two were rolled across Lakewood Blvd on the east side of the airport and delivered to AirTran and Midwest. Commercial aircraft production in the state died that day.

But on the west side of the field, the military C-17 soldiered on. The C-17 is a beast of an airplane. It’s a massive military transport that is essential for the US military. The problem is that the military has all the C-17s it needs. Production peaked at 16 a year in 2009, but that has been ramping down every year since. The aircraft was marketed to foreign countries and orders did roll in — enough to keep the production going for longer than expected — but the end has finally arrived.

The last airplane to be delivered took off from Long Beach around midday on Sunday.

There's a video of the plane taking off, too. (C-17s are pretty damned impressive.)

Things to read

A couple of articles floated through my awareness today:

Happy reading.


Are we finally having a constructive discussion about security?

The Boston Globe thinks it's time to do away with the TSA:

Let’s face it: The Transportation Security Administration, which annually costs taxpayers more than $7 billion, should never have been created. The responsibility for airport security should never have been federalized, let alone entrusted to a bloated, inflexible workforce. Former TSA administrator Kip Hawley calls it “a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic” and warns that “the relationship between the public and the TSA has become too poisonous to be sustained.” More tests and more failures won’t fix that. Scrapping the TSA would.

Fearmongers might howl, but abolishing the agency wouldn’t make air travel less secure. Given the TSA’s 95 percent failure rate, it would likely make it more secure. The airlines themselves should bear the chief responsibility for protecting planes and passengers at airports. After all, they have powerful financial incentives to ensure that flights are free of danger, while at the same time minimizing the indignities to which customers are subjected. Their bottom line would be at stake. The TSA feels no such spur.

I am posting this from an airplane, by the way. I understand that this has the potential for tragic irony.